Ocean Robbins said “Food is more than a commodity. It’s also community. What you eat literally becomes you. Every bite connects the whole world.” This belief, this value is also shared by Michelle Brenner aka “the lasagna lady.”
This past spring like many other people Michelle was furloughed from her job at a menswear store when COVID19 hit. Michelle has never been one to sit around and do nothing so she got a job at Instacart. For the two days she worked for Instacart two things happened. One was she noticed a lot of people ordering frozen lasagna. The second was on her second, and last day on the job, she was making delivery at a house where an elderly gentleman and his frail wife lived. As she chatted with this man he talked about how he and his wife had not had a home cooked meal in a month and a half. This struck a chord with Michelle. Going without a fresh meal was wrong.
Shortly after Michelle made a homemade lasagna for her family. As they were enjoying this meal she decided she was going to offer to make AND deliver a freshly made lasagna for anyone who would like one. Immediately after Michelle shared on social media her offer she began to get contacted from a plethora of people in the area she lived. Michelle’s stimulus check went to her lasagna making to buy ingredients so she could make and give lasagna to others.
“I think that food ties us to our community and our traditions, and it’s the thing that makes us feel good and connected.” Kathy Freston
What happened next is and will continue to be lasagna legend. Michelle would buy lasagna ingredients to make lasagna working 14 hour days, seven days a week. She is the friendly voice on the phone taking the order and doing the deliveries. Fundraisers have popped up to support so she could buy more ingredients to make more lasagna. She was given free use of a commercial kitchen at the Gig Harbor Sportsman’s club. Others contributed food items to help. This special lasagna gave the members of her community a way to help each other. I asked Michelle if she was able to get a lasagna to the man whose conversation changed her life and she had not. In the blur of Instacart deliveries she does not recall where that man lives. Michelle wishes she did because she would love to bring him a homemade lasagna.
When I spoke to Michelle on September 4th she had made 2300 lasagnas which meant about 23,000 bellies had been fed. Michelle said she is a different person from this experience. When she worked at the menswear store there were two co-workers who encouraged her to be more, to do more. Their confidence in her helped her to see that confidence within herself. She has always wanted to give back to others and this is a way to do it.
“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s the nourishment of the soul, and body, it’s truly love.” Gilda De Laurentils
As Michelle continues becoming the best version of herself, to be “better tomorrow as she was today,” she does not know what is next for her. She will continue making lasagna for her neighbors, friends, first responders, essential workers, anyone who wants one. Her doubts about herself are gone, she is no longer so hard on herself. Michelle is proud of the woman she is today. What happened to her has not only provided food, conversation and connection with her neighbors, it has lit a fire in her. One that burns so bright that she relishes working 14 hours days with her one spoon, one bowl, making lasagna that feeds the belly and nourishes the soul. Michelle has always wanted to run something so be it a non-profit or something else she has all the right ingredients of love, care, concern, confidence and action to make a difference in who she is and what she does.
Thank you Michelle Brenner for being you and bringing your awesome to the world. We are all better for it. Kindness champions is so honored to feature you in our Kindness Champion Spotlight.
To find our more information about the incredible Michelle Brenner here is her contact information:
The Lasagna Lady @michellebrenner46