By Emma Laperruque
The Daily Meal

What does Muhammad Ali have to do with food? According to Food Tank, "the greatest" boxer also ranks as one of the greatest athletes who champion charitable food causes. Food Tank just named Twelve Athletes Fighting to Change the Food System, and invited others to add to the list. Naturally, we at The Daily Meal, we couldn't resist the offer.

Founded in January by Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson, Food Tank seeks to foster dialogue and initiate change in response to the broken food global food system, which seems to have as many issues with hunger as it does with obesity.

"The mission of our website and organization is to highlight stories of hope and success," said Nierenberg. "And to establish a platform for other organizations to create better dialogue on these issues."

Nierenberg noted that hunger issues, to many, seem too immense and faraway for any one person to fix. But, as Food Tank's list shows, inspiration to get involved often comes from unexpected places. Several professional athletes are making a name for themselves in the food world as well by promoting causes targeting hunger, malnutrition and obesity.

"We ask for folks to let us know about other sports teams athletes they know about," said Nierenberg. We thought of a few in response, how about you?

Athletes Who Are Changing The Way We Eat Slideshow


Muhammad Ali

Started in 2010, the 2013 Muhammad Ali Center Peace Garden Grant offers 50 gardening award packages to schools, including $400 in gardening supplies and $100 for soil amendments and plants. The program is funded by Yum! Brands Foundation.


David Beckham

In 2005, Beckham became a U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador, a role he takes as seriously as soccer (er, football). In 2008, he helped launch the UNICEF 2008 State of the World's Children Report. And in 2012, he and other athletes petitioned U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to address childhood hunger during the Olympic Games.


Shannon Miller

Miller actively partners with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, which aims to reduce obesity, particularly childhood obesity by 2015.


John Salley

Salley is a notable advocate of a plant-based diet. His four NBA championships were all won on a vegetarian diet. He has even led nutrition lectures on cruises as a way to teach people how to improve their diets and lifestyles.


Lamarr Woodley

Woodley supports the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank for the annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, and is inspiring his Steelers teammates to do the same. Said Woodley on the effort, "You always have to give back to the people who are unfortunate."


Luol Deng

The Luol Deng Foundation works in the Chicago, the UK, and Sudan, aiming to provide basic human essentials to those in need. Deng, a Sudan native, has partnered with the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) to bring attention to troubles in Sudan.


Martina Navratilova

Navratilova serves as AARP’s Fitness Ambassador and regularly contributes to the AARP website, writing about everything from super foods to gluten-free diets. She also creates videos to encourage healthy lifestyles.


Mo Farah

The Mo Farah Foundation works to help those facing starvation in East Africa. The organization was started by Farah and his wife, Tania, and provides emergency response food distribution, water and sanitation programs, and health and medical programs, amongst others.


Paul Tergat

Tergat grew up to be a champion runner for Kenya, but growing up in poverty as a child, he regularly suffered from hunger. At age eight, he benefited from the WFP school meals program, and today, he serves as a WFP Ambassador Against Hunger.


Raul Gonzalez Blanco, soccer player, Spain

Another FAO Goodwill Ambassador, Blanco has supported field projects in Senegal and Chad. Also like Baggio, he supports the Professional Football Against Hunger campaign.


Roberto Baggio

Baggio has been a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Goodwill Ambassador since 2002. He also supports the organization Professional Football Against Hunger, a non-profit organization that works to fight hunger and malnutrition.


Rugby World Cup Sevens

The campaign Tackle Hunger has been a joint effort of the WFP and the International Rugby Board for a decade now. The effort seeks to engage sports fans everywhere to fight hunger worldwide.


New York Yankees

The Yanks sponsor The Healthy Home Plate Program, a program designed to teach the rising generation, specifically those ages 12 to 15, how to incorporate healthy, affordable meals into their everyday lives.


New York Islanders

This team has repeatedly worked with the Long Island food bank Island Harvest to put together the organization’s holiday food drive. Island Harvest is Long Island’s largest hunger relief organization and became more needed than ever after Hurricane Sandy.


Paul Pierce

Pierce’s foundation, The Truth on Health, promotes healthy eating and an active lifestyle. To connect to fans and inspire people to work out, the campaign’s website sets forth the FitClub34 All-Star Challenge: “work out like a Celtic!”

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