Up until three weeks ago, the subject of this blog would have made very little to no sense. And perhaps it still means nothing to you. Well, it's time to change that because at GDI, Project Ricotta and Lasagna Love are a big deal this Women's Month and we don't want you to miss out!
Together, GDI and Lasagna Love are spearheading an exciting venture, Project Ricotta, which offers GDI students the chance to break into contributing to open source while simultaneously helping Lasagna Love to improve upon its existing website and database, making the system more efficient and current.
Last week, our GDI Fellow, Faraja Thompson, sat down with the founder of Lasagna Love to learn about this nonprofit's important mission and how GDI is supporting their growth with new opportunities using Open Source Software. Because many GDI students are new to Open Source Software (OSS), it can be challenging to get exposure and opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways. Thanks to the ingenuity of GDI Board Members, a partnership with Lasagna Love was born and from it, Project Ricotta, a mini-hackathon that will provide students with hands-on experience in OSS and where they can make contributions to Lasagna Love's upgraded website.
Read on for more conversation between Lasagna Love founder, Rhiannon Menn, and GDI Fellow, Faraja Thompson, and learn how you can get involved with Project Ricotta today!
GDI: Hi Rhiannon, it’s so nice to meet you. Please tell me about Lasagna Love’s mission.
RM: At Lasagna Love, our mission is to feed families, spread kindness, and strengthen communities. I know the phrase starts with “feed families”, but at our core, we are truly a kindness mission. We have volunteers across the US, Canada, and Australia who have signed up to cook for a struggling family in their community. That struggle can look like many things, such as food insecurity, emotional overwhelm, recovering from surgery, and struggling with the loss of a loved one.
Each volunteer gets matched with a recipient family, some once per week, some once per month. We try to make it super easy for volunteers to participate in the way that is best for them. What we have found is that the food itself is a vessel for that kindness. And that’s where we’ve found the most impact–the social benefit of being connected to your community, and the emotional benefit of feeling cared for. And just about all of our recipients go on to pay it forward some way to their communities. So we’re also inspiring a network effect of kindness.
GDI: What a wonderful and important cause! And what is your role within the organization?
RM: I like to call myself “The Accidental Founder” because this truly was not something that I expected. I started cooking meals for women in my community that I connected with on social media. And people started reaching out to me to say, “Hey, I don’t need a meal, but are there enough families to go around? I’d really love to help." One by one, I added women to the community and it exploded! I went from ten volunteers in San Diego, to a hundred in California, to 4000 across the US, and now we have over 40,000 people who have spread kindness in their communities through home-cooked meal delivery at some point within the last three years.
So now I guess my technical title is CEO, but I still prefer Chief Lasagna Mama.
GDI: Haha, I love the whole concept! This is really an amazing story. The OSS partnership between GDI and Lasagna Love seems like an incredible win-win. What can you tell me about Project Ricotta?
RM: Lasagna Love resembles a traditional nonprofit, doing good work in our community; but at our core, we’re truly a tech nonprofit. Everything that we do is built on a platform that connects volunteers with recipient families with no physical intermediary, which is why we rely so heavily on our technology to do this work.
As we grew bigger, we knew we had to rebuild our platform to serve and connect our expanding community. And so, we went back to our roots; from day one, we have been inspired and led by volunteers. So it made sense to us to develop the next platform in a way that leverages people's passions and talents and inspires others. When one of our board members, Erynn Petersen, raised her hand and said, “I’d love to run this as an open source project.” We said, “Absolutely! That just fits with our DNA. We love it.”
And we love it, not only because it inspires people to get involved and contribute to something truly meaningful; we love it because it's this really cutting-edge tech stack that’s going to power kindness around the world.
GDI: This is definitely an important partnership that benefits not only Lasagna Love and GDI, but also other organizations, that will have access to the open source software.
RM: Yes! I’m particularly excited about partnering with GDI. We’re thinking about all of this around International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, playing a role in improving equity in tech from a women-in-open-source perspective. And, yes, this project will be open to everybody. It doesn’t matter what background you come from, what you look like, your gender, your age. None of that matters. That’s true for Lasagna Love as well,
To have a specific space where women can come and contribute in a really meaningful way - and not just contribute, but get the training and tools that they need with GDI, and then go on to do that in their own careers - that is particularly meaningful to me as a woman and mom who has had to break down some barriers of my own.
GDI: What advice would you give to someone who would like to become involved with Lasagna Love, either as a volunteer or a recipient?
RM: If you’re interested in volunteering, or you’re finding yourself in a moment where you could use that kindness from a stranger in your community, visit lasagnalove.org and sign up for whatever suits you, cooking, receiving, donating, etc. And join us for Project Ricotta! You can contribute to building this open source project, you can contribute financially, or you can help support our chefs. We would love to welcome you to the community in whatever way is the best fit for you.
Be sure to join our workshops this month and join our Project Ricotta mini-hackathon on March 31 to contribute to your career skills and spread kindness through this important mission. Learn more here: https://girldevelopit.com/open-source-software/.