updated 11/19/2010 AT 6:00 PM ET
•originally published 11/23/2010 AT 7:25 AM ET
You’d normally find Rachael Ray in the kitchen, whipping up one of her favorite delicious dishes for a studio audience. But at the moment, the TV chef is catering to a different crowd: needy pets.
This holiday season, Ray is donating 100 percent of proceeds from her Nutrish and Just 6 pet food and treat lines to animal shelters nationwide, giving away a total of $775,000 before Dec. 31.
“If you want to look at the state of humans, you should look at the state of animals first,” Ray tells PEOPLE.com. “People are choosing whether or not they can feed an animal and their family. And every shelter coast-to-coast is stuffed.”
Currently on the road to promote her newest cookbook, Look + Cook, Ray is also sponsoring pop-up adoption events for the shelters she’s supporting in the hopes of raising awareness for her cause. “We only give to no-kill shelters,” she says. “But we give to small and large; no one’s excluded. We want to keep as many animals alive as possible.”
Ray, mom to pit bull pup Isaboo, started her charitable giving in 2008 as a way to help all the animals she couldn’t physically save.
“My husband and I can sleep at night knowing that our small space is probably wrong for a lot of animals, but we can maybe inspire people [who have space] to bring a lot of animals home,” she says. “It’s us trying to problem-solve that very discussion, ‘Why can’t we do more?’ ”
Instead of asking famous friends to donate, Ray decided to develop her food and treat lines (with the help of Ainsworth Pet Nutrition) and give away her own take from it. “It’s a constant stream of income, and a source of relief for people that are exhausted, trying to care for their own families and care for animals,” she says.
For those who’d like to help, but can’t necessarily adopt an animal of their own, Ray suggests starting small. “When you’re out grocery shopping for your family, maybe you can put a can of cat or dog food in your cart and bring it to an animal relief center,” she says. “Maybe you can take your kids by [a shelter] and have them donate something basic. If you can give one or two dollars, or even 10 dollars, to charity, it’s a great step.”
For more information, visit rachaelsrescue.org.