Some people know her as the Lasagna Lady, but her real name is Beth Ballinger, and she is the founder of Feeding Springfield One Lasagna at a Time. She lives by the motto: Nobody goes to bed hungry.
Ballinger's parents taught her early on how to give to others. Every Thanksgiving her parents would invite a family to join them for their holiday meal. This lesson in giving taught Ballinger to be aware of those in need and how to rise to the occasion to meet that need.
Ballinger has always been in the food business as a server or a bartender. She said, "It's just natural to provide food for people." During the pandemic when restaurants and bars were closed, she felt the need to provide for those who were experiencing food insecurity. She said, "The first meal I delivered was on Thanksgiving, and the first lasagna was delivered on Christmas Eve of 2020."
Why lasagna? Ballinger said, "It is an ode to my grandmother. She made lasagna for our Christmas Eve meal. It's a family tradition." Ballinger uses her grandmother's recipe. "It's an easy meal that's hardy, and you can feed a whole family with one pan."
Feeding Springfield One Lasagna at a Time is not a business, and the lasagnas are given away for free. Major lasagna distributions are organized for Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but lasagnas are given out year-round to feed hungry families. When the Lasagna Lady is made aware of a need, she posts that need on Facebook and people respond.
Ballinger relies on donations of ingredients, financial contributions, and even change vouchers from gaming venues to make the lasagnas. She said, "The amount of support that has grown to assist me is just amazing. People volunteer to help others in need. And when someone picks up a pan, I might ask them to drop a pan off to another family if they are heading in that direction." Kumler United Methodist Church provides the use of its commercial kitchen and its parking lot to stage the major drive-up distributions.
Ballinger said, "My village, my family and friends, I thank all of them for always being there to help me get it done."