Feed the hungry and learn

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How can you help starving people eat without spending a penny?

Sounds like an unanswerable riddle, but it’s actually possible and completely gimmick-free.

One free website makes that achievable.

Just by playing a vocabulary game at www.freerice.com, for every correct answer the site donates 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

In light of recent revelations that there are more starving children in Ethiopia this year since the last severe drought in 2003, I thought it would be a good time to talk about this site.

The website is run as a sister site to poverty.com, which was started by John Breen in January 2007 with no corporate or political affiliation.

Free rice is made possible through sponsors that advertise on the site, and every single cent the site takes in from those advertising dollars directly buys the rice used to feed the hungry.

Twenty grains of rice per pop might not sound like a lot at first, but it adds up quickly as the game is played.

To test this theory, this afternoon I played until I had 1,000 grains (10 bowls) of rice.

It took exactly three minutes… and I had a few distractions in answering questions from co-workers.

It’s actually fun to play, too – not only was I helping feed starving children, but I learned a few new vocabulary words in the process.

To date, the site has donated over 33 million grains of rice to those in impoverished countries.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but looking at pictures of a 10-pound, three-year-old girl from Ethiopia who can’t even walk or talk because she’s so malnourished is enough to make me want to spend hours on this site.

As if just thinking about the conditions those people live in isn’t enough, it’s even more apparent when the evidence is right in front of you in full color.

Breen told one publication that he estimates between 300,000 and 500,000 people play the game on a daily basis.

Imagine how much more rice could be donated if every able person in America with an Internet connection did so!

How often do some of us see ads on television pleading for money to feed starving children, yet ignore it because we can hardly afford to pay our own bills, let alone someone else’s?

But this… this costs nothing except a few moments of your time.

CNN estimates that 120,000 children in Ethiopia alone will die within the next month from starvation.

Countless millions more are at risk.

The World Food Program, which FreeRice benefits, gives on average 400 grams of rice per day per person to needy families in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Uganda and Nepal.

At 48 grains of rice per gram, that’s just over 19,000 grains.

You can play for about an hour and keep one person from starving to death for a day.

That might seem inconsequential to some, but I’d be willing to bet it’s of the most serious consequence to that one person.

Due to the millions of people who have played the game, in just the first five months of operation, FreeRice generated enough rice to feed one million people.

Are you willing to help do your part to make sure that trend continues?

Jennipher Dickens is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

She can be reached via email at jennipher.dickens@r-cnews.com or by calling (252) 332-7208.