For the Love of Food – Helping Others One Bite at a Time

What is your go-to comfort food? We all have one, that meal that takes away some of our worries and just makes us feel at home. As expected, the top choices vary from state to state. An analysis of Google trends showed grilled cheese is New Jersey’s top pick, and the most popular countrywide. But it appears Maine may be on to something, demonstrating its favorite comfort main dish to be lasagna.


July 29th is National Lasagna Day, so if you haven’t sat down recently for a dish of this Italian favorite, maybe it’s time. During the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, Rhiannon Menn started baking up lasagnas for moms and other people she knew that needed a little help getting through. Her grassroots efforts have since turned into a global nonprofit called Lasagna Love, encouraging people that can, to bake a lasagna for neighbors that need help with a meal.

“It really is neighbors helping neighbors, local people helping local families. We don’t vet why you’re requesting. You never really know why people need a little extra support. It might be emotional, financial, whatever reason,” explains Lasagna Love Regional Director for New Jersey, Molly Yearick. “We cook for families, elderly, single people. It runs the gamut.”


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Lasagna is one of those meals that most people like, can be adapted to certain dietary needs and can sometimes last to fill a need for more than one meal. This year, there are 1,000 chefs cooking up lasagnas for neighbors across New Jersey. They are rarely professionals, but simply someone who is willing to bake up an extra meal in their kitchen and deliver it to someone going through a medical trauma, who is having trouble making ends meet, or who simply is too stressed out between work and home life. In Mercer County, 50 volunteer chefs are currently helping out, and so far, this year, around 300 meals have been delivered feeding 1,200 people.

“Chefs are self-funded, they make it on their own dime,” Yearick shares. “Delivery is contactless. The chef will be given the requester’s information, so they’ll reach out and say, ‘I’m going to make you a meal’ and coordinate via text a drop off date and time. We match every Monday through our portal.”

One of the unique aspects of Lasagna Love is it is not uncommon for a one-time recipient to become a chef once their circumstances turn. Also, unlike other meal delivery organizations, Lasagna Love never asks why you need the lasagna, recognizing that sometimes it is hard to ask for help. There is one caveat, though, and that is recipients must wait 30 days to request another delivery.

Since Menn began posting in 2020 on Facebook asking who needed help and offering up lasagnas, more than 350,000 hot meals have been delivered. Staying true to its roots, the organization mostly still utilizes the social media platform and its website to spread the word. So, if you want to bake for a neighbor that might need it or are in need yourself, simply log on. They work year-round but the week of National Lasagna Day last year, Lasagna Love exceeded its goal and delivered nearly 11,000 meals. It is aiming to deliver at least 10,000 this year, between July 22nd-July 31st.


Another way to feed a hungry neighbor is by passing along food that you aren’t able to finish. No, not the food off your plate, but rather food that was intended to serve a crowd but remains leftover.

Like Lasagna Love, Share My Meals also started in 2020, intending to help the environment and community at the same time. Rather than letting food left over from corporate events and cafeterias go to waste, it could be collected and delivered to those facing food insecurity. Just months into their endeavor, COVID hit and shut down the very places that would provide the food. A quick pivot led them to local restaurants, who were then not able to serve the public. Cooking up food for the community kept restaurants from wasting the food they had, allowed their staff to get paid and fed those that needed it. Another win-win.

As the world has opened back up, meal recovery has resumed from a variety of community partners. Due to its vast growth, Share My Meals has also joined forces with local organizations, such as Trenton Rescue Mission, who assist in distributing the recovered meals. Together, Share My Meals and their local partners are collecting from, handing out and delivering to people in the greater Princeton area, Trenton, Somerset, New Brunswick, Summit and Elizabeth.

David Boyle, Senior Manager at food service provider Sodexo, portions meals into Share My Meals reusable containers.

“The benefit of this model is not-for-profits are getting food to people whose needs they already understand, adding the healthy meals to the other services they’re doing to support those people. It’s like a package, we’re able to support them with what they’re already doing,” notes Jan Henderson, who volunteers as Share My Meals Strategy Communication Specialist.

More than three years into the operations, Share My Meals has delivered over 200,000 meals and served 1,200 people. Either directly or through partners, more than 5,000 meals are currently recovered each month. Due to the volume of donors, coordinators, recipients and beyond, the organization has turned to technology.

It developed the STAN platform (Safety, Tracking, Allocation, Navigation), which helps the operations flow. STAN uses QR codes to allow donors to notify meals are available, helps prioritize where meals are needed, creates efficient routes for pick-up and delivery of meals, tracks where everything is, and monitors the input and output in real time.

Share My Meals volunteers, Nikki Griffiths and Alexis Cohen, recover meals from Christopher Dietsch, General Manager of food services at a local corporate food donor.

“Food safety is very important for us, so we want to be able to track where we pick-up the food, what time, and where we’re going to deliver it. Also, for tracking, since we work with reusable containers,” Share My Meals Chief Operations Officer, Victoire Cleren, details. “We put a bar code on each container to track where the food is coming, where it goes, and how long it’s been out of refrigeration.”

Want to help? If you work for a company or organization that regularly or from time to time has excess food to give, you can arrange to donate them to Share My Meals. You could also volunteer your time to help get the food to those that need it. If you or someone you know could use a meal, you can request it here.

Share My Meals is the only organization of its kind recovering chef-prepared food from corporations on a large scale and redistributing it. In doing so, 75,000 pounds of food have been saved from the landfill.


It is a sad reality that Lasagna Love and Share My Meals alone cannot meet the needs of the community. Decades before these organizations began, another was started to not only help older and homebound adults get the nourishment they need, but to also provide them with a little company.

For the past 50 years, Meals on Wheels of Mercer County (MOWMC) has been doing just that. With the help of Gourmet Dining at Rider University, approximately 1,980 meals are served per week (both a hot dinner and a second cold meal) sent out via 25 delivery routes utilizing 100 delivery volunteers.

“The beauty of our model is not just nutrition for the body, but also for the soul,” notes Beth Englezos, Interim CEO/Chief Operations Officer for Meals on Wheels of Mercer County. “Most of the volunteers pick up the meals at Rider University. Meals for Princeton and East/West Windsor participants are picked up by one volunteer and then distributed to other volunteers who pick up the meals at the Princeton Shopping Center and at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in East Windsor. Our volunteers become our participants’ extended family and help to ease the social isolation that so many of them feel.”

While a food pantry can provide foods for many in need, most of the meal recipients are not able cook for themselves. And, they are often homebound, so are unable to take advantage of soup kitchens and other locations offering a hot meal. Financial resources are often tight as well, and MOWMC subsidizes the cost for 87% of participants.

“We are also able to provide a second daily cold meal, as well as additional weekend meals on Fridays,” Englezos adds. “In addition, we provide fresh fruit and vegetables in the summer months, monthly deliveries of non-perishable food items so participants can have a ‘little extra’ in their homes, informational materials on relevant topics of interest such as proper nutrition, and monthly pet food bags tailored to the specific needs of their pets.”

Nearly 300 residents receive help from MOWMC each day. Those struggling due to a medical treatment or aging can request to get meals. If you are able to spend some time stopping by your neighbors with meals weekly or at least monthly, or want to help to pack up the meals, volunteers are always needed.


It is often very difficult to detect when someone needs a meal. And it can be even more difficult to ask for one when you need it. But there are resources out there that can help by bringing cooked food right to your door. And there are many, many people who live nearby that are more than willing to lend a hand that just don’t always know how or when to do it. Organizations like Lasagna Love, Share My Meals and Meals on Wheels of Mercer County take the difficulty out. So, just ask or just help.

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