Food Network Star Sandra Lee Opens Up About Her Tough Upbringing: “Most People Would Call It a Terrible Childhood”

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Food Network star Sandra Lee graced the most recent cover of Angeleno magazine. Inside, she opened up about her passion for philanthropy and social responsibility– and shared that it all started with her own childhood.


“Hardship and struggle are not foreign to me,” she shared. “They are the foundational aspects of my life—but so is the overwhelming satisfaction, joy and goodness that comes out of giving back.”

Lee shared that she knows first-hand how life-changing charitable organizations can be, which is why she is so committed to advocacy. “Some would say I was born into underprivileged circumstances. In fact, most people would call it a ‘terrible childhood.”

According to Lee, she was the oldest of five children born to a teenage mother who was “unable” to care for her and her siblings.

“There was substance abuse and other issues. I have had a huge hand in raising my siblings and took on that task when I was very young,” she told Angeleno. “I took any odd job in the neighborhood: I cleaned houses and used welfare and food stamps to feed my two brothers and two sisters, making sure they had food, clothes and the basics they needed, and focused on ensuring they knew they were as good as anybody else. If it were not for the charity of others, I never could have provided for my siblings.”

Over the years, Lee has been actively involved with several charitable organizations such as UNICEF, Stand Up To Cancer, No Kid Hungry, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Meals on Wheels, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation following her own breast cancer diagnosis. She’s been awarded the Albert Einstein Award of Excellence, The President’s Volunteer Service Award, and most recently, the Eleanor Roosevelt Medal Award for her work.

Colleen Matthews
Raised in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Colleen grew up cheering on the Razorbacks, fishing with her dad, learning about southern hospitality from her mom, and enjoying the best of The Ozarks. When she's not writing, she's likely spoiling her black lab, playing pranks on her husband, chasing around her nieces and nephews, or rearranging her house.