Rachael Ray Speaks On Her Work To Help With COVID-19 Relief

Rachael Ray parlayed her early beginnings with food into a wildly successful career as an iconic television personality and bestselling cookbook author. She recently announced she's donating a total of $4 million to COVID-19 relief through her two charities, The Rachael Ray Foundation and Rachael Ray's Yum-o! Organization. The donations will help fund critically needed food and services. BUILD hosted Ray to go over her philanthropic efforts.

Video transcript


BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to "BUILD at Home." I'm your host, Brittany Jones-Cooper.

Today, I'm going to be chatting with Rachael Ray. But before we chat with Rachael, I want to remind you guys to visit nokidhungry.org. Due to school cancellations because of COVID-19, 641 million school meals have been missed, and there's a lot of kids who depend on that food every day. So if you're looking for a way to help, if you want to donate, visit nokidhungry.org.

Now, I want to welcome our guest, Rachael Ray. I mean, you almost need no introduction. I see you're in your kitchen.

RACHAEL RAY: I am always in my kitchen, whether we're taping from here or not. I can usually be found here whenever we're home. I live in the Adirondack Mountains. I've worked all my life to build a kitchen of my dreams so that I could look through the whole house, because I know I never-- I rarely get to leave the kitchen. So you can kind of look down through the whole house from the kitchen.


RACHAEL RAY: This is my point of view. My husband is normally just behind me over our garage. He built his dream studio, so he's usually in his happy place, and this is my happy place. But now, it's literally our home studio. John's behind the computer. Say hi, honey.




RACHAEL RAY: He's eating his brunch. Thank you for starting the show with No Kid Hungry. They are one of our partners since day one of our brand, No Kid Hungry/Share Our Strength, of course. Since the day we started our brand, John and I, because we don't have human children, we wanted to pay forward to the next generation somehow, and we also wanted to make sure that we had a means to take care of the generation before us.

So since we started our brand, we've used it for philanthropic pursuits, and we used it as an example of how to build our pet care food line for animals, because of course, we live with a pit bull. So it's extremely important that people understand exactly what Share Our Strength and No Kid Hungry means.

The only food security so many children have in this country is their access to school food, and we've lobbied for over a decade to try and secure 12 months or year-round school food and to improve school food nutrition in this country. Unfortunately, that's been a roller coaster ride. I don't understand why, as it's the only way to control health costs of the future.

But regardless, our friendship and partnership with them is extremely important to us. They're one of our largest gives from this week's give of $4 million, and they are building a map, and they already have an app to help communities large and small find that food for their children and secure that food. And that's what we're trying to do with the gives, is to kind of patchwork it in, working with some people that focus on low income and senior-dense communities that have populations with people 60 and over that have very limited access to good nutrition to begin with. So that's Feeding America. That's our partner for that. and on, and on, and on.

Of course, World Central Kitchen, José Andrés, who is a [INAUDIBLE] on Earth. We're helping him get up and running in Chicago, so I really appreciate that you're messaging that and educating people, because I don't think people realize how many kids are really at risk of going hungry every day, period. Not during the time of COVID, but all the time.

I mean, now, think about how frightening it is to be a little kid and you can't see your friend's face. You can't play with them and touch them. You can only see them on a computer screen. And if you're only safe place to eat every day was school, how trapped you must feel, right?

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: It's so scary. It's so scary for so many kids. You know, that's an initiative from Verizon Media, but personally too, I used to volunteer in the South Bronx, and that's when I realized the issue, and the fact that a lot of schools would actually send food home with kids over the weekend.

RACHAEL RAY: Yes! Yes. The backpacks.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And I didn't know that that was happening.

RACHAEL RAY: Isn't that great? The little health packages for the weekends. And you'd be so happy to know that there are so many communities that when schools or the local and federal government could no longer provide programming like that or cut back on it, so many people reached out. And in little pockets all over the country, they do that. They make green backpacks for their kids so they can go home food secure.

Now, we're all at home, so it's more important than ever. You know, what are we up to now? Over 15 million, 16 million jobless people. I mean--


RACHAEL RAY: There's so many people that are going to be food insecure in the coming weeks. It's so important, and thank you for your service, and I love--


RACHAEL RAY: --that you are doing community service! Woo-hoo.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Well, thank you for your service. You mentioned the gives. And all told, between the Rachael Ray Foundation and then the Yum-o! Organization, you're donating $4 million, correct?

RACHAEL RAY: $4 million, and our partners at Nutrish, our dear, dear friends and family, they feel like an extension of our own family. They added 4 million meals to that for animals and an extra million dollars over the next several months to keep animals food secure, because so many people were showing up at food lines.

Even José Andrés's kitchen is going to be handing them out with the human food, because so many people were standing on line for human food and saying when they got to the front, do you have any food for animals, too? That's how the shelters are filling up. People just can't afford to feed the people and the four-legged members of their family. So that's why we try to distribute the money as fairly as we could, but keeping in mind all of the needs of the community.

You know, there are so many great corporations and private gives. I mean, $4 million doesn't add up to a lot, but we tried to be very careful with our give and to not duplicate any one thing, to try and make an even and fair distribution of the moneys between large and small, and grassroots, and giant networks.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I love that, because one, you're doing it. But also, I think by giving it to all those different organizations you're letting all of us know all the different organizations--


BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: --that are available, because I think a lot of people don't even know where to start.

RACHAEL RAY: That's right. We have 14 partners in total. All 14 of them, you can read in detail about on our website, of course. But every single one of them we designated, because they have very specific goals. And every single person we've given to since day one has to be a measurable metric, you know?


RACHAEL RAY: It has to be someone that we have vetted completely that we believe we can see the measured outcome of where the money is going, so that we can say to our friends and neighbors, here's what physically happened, because I think that so much of it gets lost. And the larger the program gets, like, with the trillions of dollars we're talking about now in our federal funding, right, to help us all, no one seems to have a straight answer. When are you're going to see that relief? When you get that check?

And you can't do that with food. You can't do that with whether or not you literally have a roof over your head, food in your mouth, and water to drink, period. You have to know legitimately, I can get it today, tomorrow, or the next day.

So it's extremely important to me, obviously. I'm getting all whipped up. But it's extremely important to me that our partners be able to tell people specifically at any given moment, here's where we're working, here's where you can find us, here's where you can get food, here's where you can get water. You know?


RACHAEL RAY: And I don't understand why we as a country can't get together and force our local state and federal-- I think in particular in our state, I think they're doing a great job statewide. But why can't we get them to answer us directly? When will we see these dollars? How do we access these funds? When will we all get our testing? You know?


RACHAEL RAY: We should be accountable to one another.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: We have so many questions. You're asking all the questions that we all feel, you know? And it's such a frustrating time, which is why I love having tangible things that I can do or ways that I can help, because there's so many uncertainties.


BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And I think that's one way that I've been able to kind of help with my anxiety.

RACHAEL RAY: You can run with it.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And it seems like a way that you're channeling just all of your energy into sort of helping.

RACHAEL RAY: You need to have focus. But you know, I'm an old lady. Old people know this. It's so great to see a young, beautiful, strong woman saying it's really important to have purpose, and get out there, and do something every day.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Yeah, it really is. And it seems like your team was able to do it so quickly. So I just want to applaud your team. What was the process for pulling all of these things together, and--

RACHAEL RAY: Well Andrew Kaplan, John Hall, my husband, John Cusimano, my friend, Charlie Dougiello, a lot of us, Pesco, all of our friends, everyone that works in our-- company is such a creepy word-- but everyone that works together in our community. We don't even all live in the same city, but we all have the same goals, and we all believe the same root philosophy, that you don't have to be rich, and you shouldn't have to be rich to have a rich life, that life is about so much more than your bank account, and that every dime we make, we should also be paying forward in some very significant way.


RACHAEL RAY: And we all give as a community in that way, in that spirit. And everyone at the show, the magazine, every every place that we work. And I mean we. There's lots of us.

But that's what we have in common. We try and keep our humanity at the top of our list of our goal, not our celebrity and not our dollar line or our bottom line, not that we don't all love having an income. Of course, we love being gainfully employed. This is America. It's a great thing to be able to have a nice house and a pretty stove, but you know, don't get me wrong. We're blessed.

But as a philosophy, we try and keep our humanity at the top of the list. How are we helping each other with the information we're putting out there? How can we give back with the money we do take from the world and that we earn? We work very hard work for it, but how do we also use it to do some good?

And that's the balance that we all believe in, or we would not be together. Believe me, not in this marriage, not in our company, not in any of the friends that I call my second family. They have been with us for years. It's a common philosophy that we have.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: That's amazing. And in a moment like this, it is a great equalizer, where none of that stuff matters. You know?

RACHAEL RAY: That's right.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And it is just connection and pulling together, which is why I'm happy to see that you're still doing your show, because it is such a community that you've built over the years. So how has that been for you without an audience? And just-- because could I-- just-- yeah.

RACHAEL RAY: It's so weird.


RACHAEL RAY: It's so weird-- No, for so many reasons. Like, it's not weird that I talk to myself when I cook, because I did that for 20 years, and I still do it on "30 Minute Meals." Like, I'm alone in the kitchen except for the cameras, and that's why I could never work with a director that would say camera one and camera two. He would have to say, or she, would have to say the name of the person, because I couldn't get used to working without humans, right?

So then I finally get an audience, and that's so fun, and we joke with each other, and I never leave the floor. We shoot three shows a day. And I would spend all my time hanging out with people, and telling jokes, and you know, just doing behind-the-scenes stuff. And they'd be like, Rachael, we do have other shows to do today. Move along, honey.

But you know, it was so fun. and it was so energetic in a different way. Now, the trippy part for me is now that John and I are in the studio and Isaboo, our 15-year-old pill bull, is our only audience. There is no applause, there's no Joey Kola, our fantastic comedian who is our warm-up guy like, egging people into like cheering. Nothing I say is funny.

And the worst part is, we donate all of our excess food to City Harvest and Food Bank every week. And our crew eats the dish that I make for each show. We put it out with the craft services, right? So I never eat until I go home and make dinner. And when I make dinner at home, I'm super silent, big glass of wine, vinyl records playing, or "Law and Order," the gentle hum of "Law and Order" in the background. You know, something like that going on.

But I'm quiet when I make dinner. It is so weird for me to make-- like, one day I think John and I taped seven different things between what I do for IGTV--


RACHAEL RAY: --what we do for our show, what I was doing for other people. So we did seven meals. And I didn't eat any of them, because when you teach it or you perform it, you lose interest in it. And I'm just like, this is so weird. I have to pick something to eat out of this today, [LAUGHS] because it's truly blurring the lines between my private time that I would have at home--


RACHAEL RAY: You know? And what always felt like work, and my job was to get other people excited about going into the kitchen, not to get them excited about what I was going to have for dinner. So it's blurring all these weird lines for me. Who knows? It may be some weird diet plan where I end up looking like stick thin in a couple months for a very unfortunate reason.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I was going to ask, so have you found--

RACHAEL RAY: Never trust a cook who doesn't eat her own food, right? So that's gonna get--

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: No, but I get that. I get that.


BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I like to-- I don't like to cook. It's like when I go to the grocery store, I don't even like to cook that night sometimes, because I'm like, I got the food. I'll cook it tomorrow.

RACHAEL RAY: It's like you feel like you did that as a project.


RACHAEL RAY: It just doesn't feel like-- because it's always been so separate, and I've been doing this for over 20 years. You know, cooking at Food Network, and then the daytime show is going into its 15th year. So for more than 20 years, the food that I make at work is something that I share with everyone else.

It's not something that I would sit down and eat, so it's really trippy. I have no appetite at night. It's very weird. I only have an appetite when we have nothing whatsoever to tape. Then I'm like, oh, more spaghetti! [LAUGHS]

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: This is so bittersweet for me, because I'm really not always in whiz in the kitchen, and I would just love to take the meals that you're making. I wish--

RACHAEL RAY: Well, they don't go to waste. We don't waste food in this house, believe you me. My mom lives across the street, my sister's a few miles away.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Oh, that's awesome.

RACHAEL RAY: And you know, there are people that come by out of kindness to leave things at the door and drop off-- believe me, not one bite of that food went to waste, my friend. But if you lived across my street, you would be so happy! [LAUGHS]

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: One day. One day, maybe. So you're filming. You have the "Rachael Ray Show." You're filming two live shows a week, and then you have some that are taped? Is that what's going on?

RACHAEL RAY: We do, well, live to the computer or whatever from our house. John and I can really tape any time we want, but they edit it together into shows, and we air the shows from our house on Mondays and Fridays on the daytime show. And then every Saturday night on Instagram TV, we put up a new show from our house.

And this past week, we actually had three or four different things on IGTV, because we did a five-minute Passover, a five-minute Easter, and the Saturday night meal. And we're going to test drive a couple other things like cook-alongs with friends for Instagram TV. We're test driving a couple of other ideas. But for right now, it's Mondays and Fridays for the daytime show and Saturdays for IGTV.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: You are so busy, Rachael. [LAUGHS] I was going to ask. I was going to ask, like, during this downtime, have you started any new hobbies? But you seem pretty busy?

RACHAEL RAY: My new hobby list is pretty long. My husband gave me, because I love to do-- I call them "foodles," food doodles as note cards for thank you notes to people. So I have these paint pens, but he bought me a proper set of paints, and an easel, and instruction books, and all the paper and stuff so that I could become a fabulous watercolor artist. So that was on my COVID plan, and to pick up any of the three languages I am almost proficient in, that was my second plan. And to go back to my love and study of percussion instruments and master drums was my other plan.

All I've really managed to do so far is complete my friend Harlan Coben's book, "The Boy in the Woods." It's like, a great thriller. All I've managed to really do in a couple of weeks is work and read a book and like, a quarter of three or four other books.


So we'll see. We'll see. What are your plans? Do you have a, oh, I can use some of this extra time to be blah, blah, blah? Or now, you're working on--

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Oh, no. I've been on my zen. I've been meditating, I've been doing yoga. I've read--


BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: --three books. I've been writing.


BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Yeah, I'm here alone, so it's like, I have just time that I've never had. It's been beautiful, honestly. It's kind of a silver lining to all this, you know?

RACHAEL RAY: That's why you're so glowy. You're very glowy.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: No, I'm just right by the window.


This is just direct sunlight. You've got to know how to find your light on these things.


Oh, Rachael. I just have to say, I was so excited to chat with you. I've been a fan of yours for so long, and I'm just so happy with all the stuff that you're doing for people and helping out communities during this time. We need it, and you've been a leader for so many people, and I just want to say thank you.

RACHAEL RAY: Thank you. And if you're all alone, call any time, 'cause I'm here.


BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Don't. Don't tempt me, OK? 'Cause I will show up on your door asking for leftovers, OK?

RACHAEL RAY: No problem, and we got 'em. Thank you so much.


RACHAEL RAY: Have a great rest of your day.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Yes. You, too. And make sure that people can check you out on Saturday, right? Saturday on your IG Live, and then you--

RACHAEL RAY: Saturday on IG and Mondays and Fridays on our show.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: All right. Thank you, Rachael. We'll see you next time.