Food guru Sandra Lee to be honored for her volunteer work at The Bowery Mission

Sandra Lee

Sandra Lee

"Semi-Homemade" cooking mogul Sandra Lee, the national spokeswoman for "Share Our Strength," and recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award, has worked on behalf of numerous organizations fighting hunger and food insecurity. She is being honored tonight at The Bowery Mission's 14th Annual Valentine Gala for her volunteer service, advocacy and working with corporate partners.

Did your childhood experiences drive your interest in alleviating poverty and hunger? I'm sure! When my parents divorced and my father moved out of state, we had to go on welfare and food stamps. We stayed on them from the time I was 11 or 12 until the time I was 16.

You are a private-sector leader and your boyfriend (Gov. Andrew Cuomo) is a public sector leader. Whose responsibility is it to solve hunger? The responsibility of anybody who lives in a community. You help your friends and family first, then your community, then your state, and then nationally. We're all here together on this planet. We are all connected and we are all family.

How much time do you devote to charity? About a quarter. If I'm talking to someone at Tyson and they have a whole extra truck full of chicken, I get on the phone with God's Love or City Meals on Wheels or The Bowery Mission and say, "What do you need?" I’m very good at connecting the dots with the big partners in the food industry. But the people who really deserve to be honored are the people who work in these places and all the volunteers. These people are working on hunger every single day: I still have to run my company!

Sounds like you learned "waste not, want not" in your childhood. I learned that from the best -- my grandmother (Lorraine Waldroop, who died in 1999). My grandmother ran a (food) pantry service for 40 years -- that was her side job.   My grandmother ran a pantry service for 40 years – that was her side job. Her day job was running a cafeteria for the Rand Corp., and she also cleaned houses. She was the queen of operations at that pantry, always doing and organizing.

How can we save money on our grocery bills? 


Planning is key. Plan your trips to the grocery store and go only once or twice a week instead of three, four or five times. Pay attention to those Sunday supplements and coupons. Most of the store brands and name brands come from the same manufacturer, so why not save 50 cents a can? Slow cookers are great and will give you meat so tender it falls off the bone.  And when you buy hamburger, 80% lean is just as good as 90% lean.

Would you and Matilda Cuomo have a lasagna cook off for charity? I love her lasagna! My lasagna is my grandmother's lasagna. Hers is probably her mother's lasagna. These are legacies! I think a whole bunch of women should get together and have lasagna cook offs for charity!



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