Rhiannon Kopynec Menn ’07 was living in San Diego in 2020, raising two small children and running a real estate business with her husband, when the pandemic struck and everything stopped. Then, on impulse late one night after snagging a coveted grocery delivery slot, she went on a shopping spree that would change her life.
“I started throwing things into the virtual shopping cart, and I told my husband, ‘I’m just going to start making meals for people,’” she said. Menn posted a note on a Facebook moms’ group offering home-cooked food, no explanation required. She delivered seven lasagnas that first week and kept going—reaching people who had immunocompromised kids or had lost their jobs—and Lasagna Love was born.
Today the mostly volunteer-run nonprofit operates across the U.S. and in several other countries, and has provided more than a million meals and counting. Menn says Lasagna Love grew organically, with word spreading on social media and volunteers stepping up to cook. But it’s a sophisticated operation. In addition to a love for cooking, Menn brought to the task an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a longtime interest in finding more efficient models for doing good—a passion that dates back to a class on social entrepreneurship that she took her senior year at Brown.
Lasagna Love has volunteers who donate the sort of professional services that many organizations pay staff to do. And it uses proprietary software to match cooks and clients, powered by an algorithm developed by MIT graduate students.
“We look like a volunteer cooking nonprofit, but at our core we’re really a tech nonprofit,” she says.