‘Lasagna Mamas’ cook up weekly meals made with love for families struggling during pandemic

BROCKTON, Mass. — Ashley Hatsiopoulos is what you’d call a “Lasagna Mama." Several weeks ago, she joined the ranks of moms all over the country cooking and delivering meals for families struggling during the pandemic due to lost jobs, lost childcare, and even lost family members.

As Hatsiopoulos cooks meals from her Brockton home for her own family – her favorite hobby – she makes extra batches each week for families in need in her community.

“We’re all mamas that are taking care of each other,” Hatsiopoulos said. “Really, honestly, any one of us is one tragedy, one hour away from your entire life just being completely disrupted and changing forever.”

For Hatsiopoulos, the labor of loves comes from a personal desire to give back.

“When I was a kid, my mother was really sick,” Hatsiopoulos said. “My mother had stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer, and I remember the biggest help that people gave to our family was cooking us meals.”

Lasagna Love was founded by Rhiannon Menn, who was looking for a way to help out other parents with a home-cooked lasagna at a tough time. But as the organization grew, it became much more than a hot meal.

“There are so many moms that are struggling for the first time and have never had to ask for help before,” Menn told Boston 25 News. “It’s hard, and a lot of them feel embarrassed or ashamed. And it’s easy to say yes to a neighbor, when it might be hard to go to a local food bank or find a social service organization.”

Lasagna Love has more than 2,000 volunteers actively cooking and 1,000 more waiting to get into the system. Thousands of families have been helped in every state in the country.

Hatsiopoulos’ Thursday night menu included baked macaroni and cheese, along with biscuits and cookies.

She delivered the meals to two women who have become friends since her first delivery.

“My oldest son passed away in April,” said an emotional Ruth Mann whose 47-year-old son died of COVID-19. “If it wasn’t for them, I’ll tell you – And the food is so good. It is excellent. I don’t have his help, but I have them. Thank God.”

Mann’s neighbor, Pam Grant, has also been signing up for Hatsiopoulos’s weekly meals. Her favorite so far is stuffed shells.

“My daughter works 10 hours a day, her husband is an amputee, my granddaughter has Down syndrome,” Grant said. “For us, she does a huge service by bringing in a meal that we don’t have to cook. Just sit down and eat, and it’s good to boot.”

Hatsiopoulos chatted with Mann and Grant during Thursday night’s delivery before promising a chicken stir fry next – with white rice, no mushrooms.

As Mann and Grant teared up speaking about the generous gift, Hatsiopoulos, too, was touched by their gratitude.

With each meal she makes, she includes the same healthy ingredients and love she uses when cooking for her own family.

“You want it to be something that you would serve your own family, because these are just that,” Hatsiopoulos said. “These are families, and I won’t give them anything I won’t give my own daughter.”

While Hatsiopoulos and many other Lasagna Mamas spend their own money on their homemade meals, Lasagna Love accepts donations to help as many families as possible.

To donate, volunteer as a Lasagna Mama or request a meal, visit their website.

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