BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Oregano, ricotta and a lot of love is going into Valerie Mast's lasagna today.
She's been in the kitchen since she was old enough to see over the countertops.
"I try to think about the ingredients I put in. I like fresh stuff. Often I like using home as close to homemade stuff as possible," Mast said.
Mast is a mother of five. But these lasagnas won't be served on her table in Cypress Hills. They're going to families struggling during the pandemic.
"Lasagna Love gives me the opportunity to just share the things that I would give my family and share that with another family," Mast said.
Lasagna Love is a national network of volunteers who cook up the hearty dishes for their neighbors in need.
Three-thousand home chefs are known as "Lasagna Mamas and Papas." They pay for the ingredients out of their own pockets.
In the last six months, these volunteers delivered 7,500 meals across the country.
"There was just all the sudden so much more that we as moms and families had to do. And I just wanted to find a way of how can I make, how can I make it easier?" said Lasagna Love Founder Rhiannon Menn.
Mast also coordinates a band of more than 30 lasagna mamas and papas in Brooklyn and Queens.
She's delivered 10 of her own dishes since she started volunteering last month, and typically throws in some sort of pastry.
Today she's dropping off meals to two families in East New York.
"It's just really important for neighbors to know they're not alone. Um to know that there are other people that care," Mast said.
For the recipients, it’s time and money saved.
"This is going to make a big difference Um you know everything is tight. Bills is tight," said Jennifer Martinez, a lasagna reciever.
“Especially during the pandemic," added Jorge Gutierrez, a lasagna receiver.
“I'm just grateful that I can do that. It's the excitement that the kids had and the parents too. It's such a good feeling," Mast said.
So, for her drive to help her neighbors and the love she shares through food, Valerie Mast is our latest New Yorker of the Week.