Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon and popular singer Celine Dion on Wednesday proudly and humbly accepted international roles as Goodwill Ambassadors in the fight on hunger for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
As part of the celebration of the UN World Food Day, the FAO Director General Jacques Diouf proudly announced at Rome, Italy headquarters of FAO, that Sarandon and Dion, along with Italian actor Raoul Bova (known in the US for his role in Under the Tuscan Sun) and Philippine singer Lea Salonga had accepted the call to join the battle against hunger. They join the ranks of other celebrities such as Carl Lewis and Pierre Cardin.
"I am proud to be able to use what celebrity I have to draw everyone's attention to the very real and dramatic problem of hunger, food insecurity and extreme poverty," said Sarandon as she accepted the appointment.
"As a mother, I can't imagine anything more upsetting, demoralizing, frustrating than not being able to feed your child," Sarandon added, "and so I am accepting this award as a call to action."
"Almost 1 in 6 people wake up hungry, not knowing whether or not they will have enough to eat -- these are the most vulnerable and voiceless people in the world."
In 2009, according to the FAO, the number of hungry people in the world reached a "critical threshold" of one billion, in part because of soaring food prices and the global financial crisis.
Celine Dion, who was unable to attend the ceremony in Rome, sent a video message.
"More than a billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition at a time when the world has more than enough food to feed everyone," she said. "This is totally unacceptable and time is running out." The World Food Day event is entering 30th year, and this year's theme is "United Against Hunger."
"With willpower, courage and persistence," says the statement on the FAO website, "and many players working together and helping each other – more food can be produced, more sustainably, and get into the mouths of those who need it most."
In her acceptance speech Sarandon pointed out that widespread hunger also affects world security and stability.
"Without food people riot, without food people migrate, or die," she said.
"But this remains a hidden development issue of our generation, because the very people it affects are voiceless."
Last May the FAO launched its 1billionhungry project -- a website that uses use social media to invite people to sign their anti-hunger petition. To date, just over 1 million people have signed.
With the slogan "1,000,000,000 people live in chronic hunger and I'm mad as hell," the site urges you to sign and "put pressure on politicians to end hunger." It then invites you to share your personal link with friends and family via Facebook and Twitter, and it traces your "impact" by the number of people you have signed on.
Dion and Sarandon are convinced that something can be done.
"We need to urge our leaders to make it a priority," Sarandon said, "because that's all that stands in the way of solving these kinds of problems - is making it a priority."
"It is possible to end hunger if we all join hands and pitch in ... there is no mission more important," said Dion.