Athletes and dancers are acutely aware of the power of nutritious food and the importance of maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle to achieve their best. They are natural ambassadors for spreading the message of eating fresh, nutritious food and keeping physically active to promote a healthy lifestyle. Fueled by a passion and commitment to their sport, many athletes and dancers work tirelessly to advocate for healthier communities and food systems. Their efforts can tremendously impact the negative health effects of obesity and hunger and help raise awareness of these global issues.
These 14 athletes and dancers are devoting their time and efforts to increase awareness of global hunger and obesity, promoting healthy, organic food, and encouraging youth and adults to be active and fit.
1. Ray Allen
Former United States professional basketball player Ray Allen is the founder of The Ray of Hope Foundation, which develops and assists sports-related and community-based programs for youth in underserved communities. The foundation has raised more than US$750,000 to support organizations that help children lead healthier, happier lives, such as Development Through Athletics, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. Together with his wife, Shannon, Allen has also opened a first of its kind restaurant, Grown, that offers certified 100 percent organic, sustainable, and locally sourced cuisine in a quick service restaurant.
2. Jason Brown
Former U.S. professional football player Jason Brown quit his sporting career to found First Fruits Farm in Louisburg, North Carolina, to produce a sustainable source of food for his community. With no prior agricultural experience, Brown learned how to farm through watching Youtube videos and gaining advice from local farmers. During their first harvest in 2014, First Fruits Farm donated more than 100,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and 10,000 pounds of cucumbers to local food pantries and hunger relief organizations. First Fruits Farm also provides opportunities for agricultural research, education, and mentorship for youth.
3. Coeur D’Alene Tribe
The Native American Coeur D’Alene Tribe in northern Idaho have created an exercise routine based on traditional dancing called Powwow Sweat to help combat the rate of heart disease and obesity in the community. The program breaks down six traditional dances and incorporates some cardio moves into step-by-step exercise routines. Powwow Sweat classes are taught at the tribe’s wellness center, or accessed online as a series of YouTube videos.
4. Ash Dykes
Welsh extreme athlete Ash Dykes has partnered with Lord Newborough of Rhug Estate Organic Farm in Corwen, Wales, to promote good health and nutrition with his Mission Possible Organic Meat Box. Dykes also attends Rhug Estate Organic Farm for talks and events to highlight the impact of organic food when it comes to health and fitness. Rhug Estate is a 6,700-acre farm that rears organic beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork, and goose, and has one of the largest organic farm shops in the United Kingdom providing locally-grown organic produce.
5. Ricardo Kaká
Brazilian professional soccer player Ricardo Kaká is a World Food Program (WFP) Ambassador Against Hunger. Kaká has participated in various campaigns, including Fill the Cup, an international fundraising and awareness initiative for child hunger, and the WeFeedback Campaign in 2011, which helped provide more than 400,000 children with nutritious school meals. Kaká has also publicly promoted the Zero Hunger campaign at United Nations’ events and continues to promote WFP’s work to his more than 27 million followers on social media and digital channels.
6. Raul González
Former Spanish soccer star Raúl González, became a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Goodwill Ambassador in 2004. González has traveled to many countries to increase public awareness of global food security and donated prize money to fund five FAO projects fighting hunger. By becoming an Ambassador, González has committed himself personally and professionally to address the universal humanitarian goals that underpin FAO’s mission—to build a food-secure world for present and future generations.
7. International Dance Council
The International Dance Council (CID) has partnered with the WFP to create Dance to Zero Hunger, a project promoting healthy eating through dance and education. The initiative encourages dance schools to create short dance programs for children that highlight the importance of food security and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Participating schools create choreography focused on reducing global hunger that is showcased in celebrations on U.N. endorsed International Dance Day and World Food Day.
8. Liberated Movement
Founded by Lauren Pellettieri and Elizabeth Fielder, Liberated Movement is a nonprofit organization in New York City providing accessible, donation-based dance classes. Liberated Movement provides everyone—regardless of citizenship status, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, race, housing or economic status—a safe space to explore dance as a form of exercise and expression. Offering an array of genres suitable for all experience levels, Liberated Movement is breaking down the barriers of cost and inexperience to encourage everyone to move and exercise freely.
9. Shannon Miller
U.S. Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller is the founder of the Shannon Miller Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting childhood obesity. The foundation offers children the opportunity to be physically active and gain greater nutritional knowledge through its running club and education and awareness programs. The Shannon Miller Foundation supports more than 8,000 children in Florida by increasing schools’ physical activity programs. It also holds free one-mile fun runs for children, and adult runs to raise funds for its ongoing programs.
10. Paul Pierce
Former U.S. professional basketball player Paul Pierce launched The Truth on Health campaign to help empower and encourage youth to lead healthier lifestyles. The Truth on Health includes an awareness campaign and programs for young people that promote physical fitness and healthy eating, encouraging a commitment or pledge of 60 minutes of physical activity per day. His program FitClub34 provides children with the information and tools necessary to become more active and physically fit and allows them to track their activity and redeem prizes when fitness goals have been achieved. The website also provides healthy eating tips and information for parents to help talk to their child about the importance of eating well and staying healthy.
11. Christiano Ronaldo
Professional Portuguese soccer player Christiano Ronaldo has used his fame as a global spokesperson for a variety of causes including childhood hunger, obesity, and biodiversity. As a Global Ambassador for Save the Children, Ronaldo is fighting against child hunger and obesity through promoting physical activity and healthy eating. In 2015, Ronaldo was named the world’s most charitable sports star, donating millions of dollars to emergency relief and child health funds. With more than 60 million social media followers, Ronaldo continues to promote health and fitness messages and raise awareness about child hunger.
12. Tara Stiles
Tara Stiles is the founder of Strala Yoga and supporter of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an initiative of U.S. President Clinton to combat childhood obesity. As a partner of the initiative, Stiles has brought Strala yoga classes to more than 30,000 participating schools through a range of yoga fitness break videos. Stiles has also partnered with W Hotels to launch FIT with Tara Stiles, a global program bringing Strala Yoga classes and healthy recipes to W properties around the globe.
13. Paul Tergat
Kenyan Olympic and running champion Paul Tergat is a WFP Ambassador Against Hunger and a staunch advocate of WFP school meal programs. As a recipient of WFP school meals as a child, Tergat has traveled to multiple countries raising awareness and funds for school meal programs worldwide. As well as supporting WFP fund-raising campaigns to save the school-feeding programme in Kenya, Tergat has actively supported efforts to bring basic healthcare and clean water to his childhood community in Kenya’s Rift Valley.
14. David Wirrapunda
Former Australian Football League (AFL) player David Wirrapunda is the founder of the Wirrapunda Foundation, working to improve the health and opportunities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. The Wirrpanda Foundation delivers culturally appropriate programs that are designed and delivered by Aboriginal people and has reached approximately 45,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People nationally. The foundation’s health and leadership program targets youth who are involved with the criminal justice system, providing education and activities focused on physical exercise, nutrition, goal setting, leadership, and drug and alcohol awareness.