Hungry? Have No Fear, The ‘Lasagna Lady’ Is Here!
She knew she wanted to help others during the coronavirus pandemic. Turns out, she already had the skills to keep her community fed.
We all have our favorite comfort foods we turn to when we're feeling stressed out or, as of late, when it feels like the world is coming to an end.
A woman in Washington state recently found her second calling making her favorite calorie-busting, mood-boosting cuisine: lasagna.
Michelle Brenner, 45, was furloughed from her job during the coronavirus pandemic, so she did what any person of Italian descent would do - she made a huge pan of her grandmother's lasagna.
Brenner has been making her favorite comfort food to help keep her community fed during the pandemic. Michelle Brenner/Facebook
"Those warm smells help people to know that somebody cares about them," Brenner told the Washington Post. "You can be in the most awful place in your life, and then a big plate of lasagna will provide some peace and hope."
After doing some shopping for her neighbors and picking up some frozen lasagna, she realized how much better her homemade version was than the store-bought kind. So, she posted to her community's Facebook group and offered to make lasagna for anyone who wanted a home-cooked meal.
"Hello favorite friends — I delivered a ton of frozen family-size lasagnas today," Brenner wrote. "Now, this is not a problem by any means, lol. But you have a die-hard, full Italian lasagna lover living in your town."
Brenner started off feeding her friends and neighbors, but soon strangers were lining up to get a free pan of homemade lasagna. Michelle Brenner/Facebook
Using her $1,200 stimulus check, Brenner purchased ingredients to make as many pans of homemade lasagna as she could. She started off giving pans to friends and neighbors, and then she started feeding everyone from single parents who lost their jobs to front line workers in need of a hot meal.
When Brenner's operation started to grow, she got a generous offer from a nearby business to use their commercial kitchen. Michelle Brenner/Facebook
"The world as we know it is falling apart, but my two little hands are capable of making a difference," Brenner said. "I can't change the world, but I can make lasagna."
After a few months of cooking at her home, Brenner got an offer to use the kitchen at a local clubhouse that was closed due to the pandemic.
"We saw what a great thing she was doing, and we have this nice commercial kitchen that wasn't being used because of covid," Le Rodenberg, the president of the Gig Harbor Sportsman's Club, said.
Brenner prepared meals for first responders and healthcare workers to make sure they stayed fed during the pandemic. Michelle Brenner/Facebook
Since Brenner couldn't keep up with the costs of buying fresh ingredients every day, she's had several fundraisers on Facebook and has raised more than $22,000 from people all over the world.
She even has a 'Lasagna Lady' t-shirt that she wears when she goes to the grocery store to avoid getting dirty looks when she shops in bulk.
While Brenner might be returning to work soon, she said she doesn't want to stop being the "Lasagna Lady,"Michelle Brenner/Facebook
While Brenner will likely return to her job sometime this summer, she says that her lasagna-making days are far from over.
"I'll bet I could continue this for the rest of my life," she said. "I love creating in the kitchen, but more importantly, I love the people I've met."
Brenner has made over 1,200 pans of lasagna since she started the project in March. Michelle Brenner/Facebook