March 29, 2011; Source: New York Times | Food Network celebrity chef Sandra Lee happens to be the girlfriend of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. Like many a first lady, Lee has taken up pet causes related to her political spouse. In her case, the cause is fighting childhood hunger.
Recently, in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal, she hosted what she called the “World’s Largest Bake Sale” to raise $50,000 for the Food Bank of New York City. Delicious cupcakes, pies, and cakes were sold to generate money for the food bank, which Lee said would generate four dollars of food bank food for every one dollar raised.
But the chef happens to be living with the governor as he tries to balance New York State’s long unbalanced budget. Advocates for food banks across the state are unhappy with Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget allocating $29.7 million for hunger programs. They noted that that is the same amount as the budget made available last year, except that food bank demand is up and wholesale food prices are way up. The result is that holding the hunger budget at $29.7 million is in effect a cut.
Lee may be an advocate for addressing childhood hunger, but she is not an advocate for fighting with her boyfriend. When repeatedly asked for an opinion by reporters about the governor’s proposed budget for hunger, Lee responded patiently, with a smile, “I am not here to talk about the governor’s budget, thank you.” The Hunger Action Network Executive Director Mark Dunlea was willing to talk about the topics Lee sidestepped, noting, “We had a lot of hope for him as governor, and he seems blind to the fact that we’re in a recession.”
Lee ended her bake sale telling a reporter, “I’m not here to talk about politics, but if you want a great recipe for cream cheese icing, I’ve got that for you.” The chef may not be speaking to the press, but wouldn’t it be nice if she were lobbying the governor back at the gubernatorial mansion?—Rick Cohen