How Rachael Ray Has Been Working To Feed America's Students - Exclusive

Rachael Ray has seen a lot of success in her career as a cook and TV personality. But if you ask her, what makes the success truly worth it is the ability to give back. Ray has used her business revenue and her platforms to support causes that matter to her throughout her career. One of those causes, not surprisingly, has been feeding school children. Ray has been advocating for improving nutrition for all school-age children through her foundation, and more recently, through the New York City Chef's Council. As chair of the council, Ray is leading a team of chefs and industry professionals working "to bring scratched-cooked, plant-based, and culturally relevant food to nearly one million New York City school children."

Speaking exclusively with Tasting Table recently at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, Ray shared more about the work she's been doing to feed America's students and opened up about why this cause is so important for future generations.

The key to future generations' success starts with nutrition

If there's anyone who could be trusted to put together simple yet fun and delicious school lunches, it would be Rachael Ray. But she's not just cooking for the sake of cooking when it comes to her philanthropic efforts, particularly with school lunches.

For Ray, the investment in students is an investment in the future. And proper nutrition is the foundation of that future. "I've been working for school food improvements for decades because it's the only fair playground to lower the health care cost of the future, to better the health of young people, to introduce them to decent food ... or, for at-risk kids that might go hungry, to instead give them access to food," Ray told Tasting Table. She said of her work with the NYC Chef's Council, "The only way we can do all of those things at the same time is through the public food system."

She brings together 'food superheroes'

Rachael Ray told Mashed her foundation was a major funder of this project, which she says is "bringing together ... food superheroes," including J.J. Johnson, Grace Ramirez, and Zoe Adjonyoh. "All these folks are coming together and helping us create, with Mayor Adams' office, a program where the food is going to be made by humans from scratch, and it's plant-based and it's tasty," says Ray.

"These are mind-blowers for a lot of people," Ray admits. But to her, it only makes sense to eliminate food insecurity because of the positive trickle-down effects. "If [kids can] get one good meal a day, they're going to be [more] solid. They will show up at school ... it lowers your health care costs," and so much more, she says. While efforts like this are sure to take time, Ray is dedicated to fighting for the cause, one plant-based school lunch at a time.

Check out The Rachael Ray Foundation website to learn more about the causes it supports. For the latest from Rachael Ray, follow her on Instagram. Plus, learn more about the annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, presented by Capital One, and be sure to check out the highlights from this year's event.