After Being Laid off, ‘Lasagna Lady’ Cooks 1,200 Pans for the Needy


It’s an all-too-familiar story during the coronavirus pandemic. A woman arrives at her retail job only to hear that she is out of work. Many would respond with a sense of self-pity, but her reaction has been an inspiration to thousands.

Like many of us, Michelle Brenner, who worked at a menswear store, first turned to comfort food—using her grandmother’s special recipe, she made a huge pan of lasagna.

Then, she offered to go grocery shopping for some friends and was dismayed that they had added frozen lasagnas to their lists. Her culinary mind screamed, “This just won’t do at all!”

It was then that she realized she could put some smiles on some faces in Gig Harbor, Washington.

The Italian-American posted on Facebook, letting her friends and neighbors know that she could whip up some homemade goodness for them—all they had to do was ask, and come by to pick it up. She received her $1,200 government stimulus check, and used all of it to buy ingredients for her cooking.

A retired neighbor and unemployed friend were the first to take her up on the generous offer. Before long, many strangers who’d heard about her kindness started stopping by. Three months have passed now, and Michelle is still assembling the layers of love—8 hours a day, seven days a week.

She has made over 1,200 pans of lasagna—no questions asked—for anybody who wants one. She even began dropping them off for essential workers at the local police and fire departments, the hospital (and even the prison).


“The world as we know it is falling apart, but my two little hands are capable of making a difference,” the 45-year-old angel told the Washington Post. “I can’t change the world, but I can make lasagna.”

At first, Ms. Brenner was assembling the lasagna at home and leaving it for pick up in her front yard. All people had to do was take it home and pop it in the over. When word spread about her generosity, strangers stepped up to support the unique philanthropy.

The Gig Harbor Sportsman’s Club offered the use of their huge clubhouse kitchen.

“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 club’s president, told the Post. “I can tell you that she takes extra care with every one of those lasagnas.”

In order to scale up her operation, she set up a fundraiser on Facebook to support her work. Before long, it had raised more than $22,000, mostly from strangers on Facebook from all corners of the world. She says this will enable her to continue cooking for several months.

Michelle expects she’ll be able to get back to work at some point during the summer. But even when that happens, she will continue making her delicious pasta dishes from grandma’s recipe, and she says she could easily continue for the rest of her life.

“One lasagna at a time, we’re going to get through this,” she told KING 5 news.

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