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    Wednesday, November 30, 2022

    Spreading love with lasagna

    The logo for Lasagna Love, a home-cooked meal delivery program founded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Allison Kempe remembers that when she was growing up her late mother always used to make casseroles for others in the neighborhood when they needed it.

    When her mother died two years ago from cancer she found a way to honor her memory by making and delivering lasagnas with her daughter Sawyer.

    Kempe, a Waterford resident who is program manager at the Internal Revenue Service, is now one of 35 volunteers in the region who are taking part in a nationwide initiative to spread kindness in the community with lasagna.

    Founded during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lasagna Love is a platform that allows people to receive deliveries of home-cooked meals. Regional networks have formed across the country and as far away as Australia.

    “It’s been really rewarding,” Kempe said. “You know you’re helping people when they’re in need and not just financially. Someone may have a medical condition or are home-bound and want a home cooked meal.”

    There are four regional leaders in Connecticut with Natalie Webb of Mystic the region leader for New London County.

    Since 2020, Webb said the platform has fed more than 3,100 people in the county with about 1,300 of them being kids. She said her volunteers are delivering about 40 lasagnas a month and are open to doing more.

    “The goal is to get people to ask for help,” she said. “You don’t have to do it alone. There are people in the community willing to help.”

    Webb is also a registered dietitian and the president of Nutrition Network as well as the associate dean for the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions at the University of Hartford.

    “One of the reasons I decided to join was because I recognized the importance of food and promoting good health,” Webb said.

    Webb also supported the mission of the group which she said is about strengthening the community and eliminating the stigma of asking for help.

    She said Lasagna Love started with a mother offering to make lasagnas for her neighbors during the pandemic and after posting on Facebook about it, found volunteers that were willing to help.

    As the regional leader, Webb oversees connecting those requesting a lasagna for themselves or someone else to people who make and deliver the meal to them. The requests, and signing up to be a volunteer chef, are done on the website: LasagnaLove.org.

    Some of the people Webb said receive the lasagnas in the region are those who have lost jobs, new parents feeling overwhelmed with caring for a baby, seniors that live alone and those with health challenges.

    Webb has volunteered with the program for almost three years and still cooks a lasagna from time to time. She said there are about 35 volunteers in the region who volunteer as chefs and dictate how often they want to volunteer.

    Kempe started volunteering as a chef about a year and a half ago during the pandemic when she lived in Rockland County, N.Y., and reached out to to the New London program before she moved to Waterford in June.

    She said the program is based on lasagna because it is a warm and comfortable meal, a “labor of love” she called it. But certain volunteers can accommodate special dietary restrictions or offer to make a dish other than lasagna.

    Webb said people can make requests with no questions asked but are restricted to making a request once a month. Unlike some community efforts that are done only around the holidays, Webb said she appreciates that Lasagna Love operates year round.

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