Although the subject was hunger, words like "will" and "responsibility" and "awareness" were heard more frequently than any mention of food at the Kennedy Center yesterday.

"In 1974 what we thought was the problem was not enough food," said Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (R-N.Y.). "What we found is that it's not a matter of not enough food. The problem is essentially political will."

Yesterday was World Food Day, and about 350 people had come to the Kennedy Center for the presentation of the 1984 Presidential World Without Hunger Awards, sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development and conducted by the End Hunger Network, a coalition of more than 80 antihunger organizations.

"When there's a critical mass," said End Hunger Network president Brenda Broz Eddy, "something happens. The culture starts to say, 'This is what's up, everybody's jogging, everybody's talking about whatever's in.' "

And Eddy wants hunger to be the subject everyone talks about.

"Put it this way, what has to happen is a movement has to develop that everyone can buy into," said Philip Johnston, executive director of CARE. "Hunger in the United States could be ended tomorrow if they wanted to."

Robert Rodale, president of Rodale Press, which won an award, believes the process should begin on the dining room tables of America.

"I don't want to suggest Americans should feel guilty," he said, "but a very positive thing Americans could do is eat less."

The guests, who included actors Jeff Bridges, Dennis Weaver, singer John Denver and comedian and master of ceremonies Harvey Korman, shared a lunch the program described as "simple family fare, symbolic of food abundance and the ability to feed all the people of the world through a continuing commitment to a World Without Hunger." It included couscous and chicken, pea pods and African Date Nut Biscuit.

Bridges and Korman became involved in the issue through the nonprofit Hunger Project, founded by est creator Werner Erhard.

"It's not acceptable to hear that children die of starvation when it's not necessary," said Korman.

"Valerie Harper, David Begelman, the producer, and I -- we started holding cocktail parties in Beverly Hills to talk about hunger. We started to really inspire them. I can't believe that from our little cocktail parties where there were five or 10 people, now many of us are sitting here in Washington."

The World Without Hunger award winners were:

C. Payne Lucas, executive director of Africare, a private organization working to improve the quality of life in rural Africa.

Meals for Millions, a volunteer organization that sponsors self-help programs in food and nutrition technologies.

Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, a supporter and member of the 1975 Presidential Commission on World Hunger and congressional advocate for hunger-related issues.

Actor Eddie Albert, a volunteer spokesman on the issue of world hunger and a delegate to the 1974 World Food Conference in Rome.

Arthur T. Mosher, a specialist in international agriculture development and founder and first president of the Agriculture Development Council.

Rodale Press, a publishing company that specializes in encouraging agriculture at the small-farm level.