FreeRice WebGame donates Rice

Online game nets billionth grain of rice donation

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The United Nations says millions of online wordsmiths have translated their vocabulary prowess into more than one billion grains of rice -- enough to feed 50,000 hungry people for one day., the brainchild of 50-year-old U.S. computer programmer John Breen, was launched on Oct. 7 and has produced a mountain of rice for the United Nations' World Food Programme in little more than a month.

An unidentified girl stands in front of her parents' dilapidated house in the city of Nouakchott, Mauritania on June 25, 2006. More than 600 million of the world's poorest people live in Africa. An AIDS orphan eats from a plate of food at a kindergarten in Manzini, Swaziland.
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The site contains a custom-built database comprising thousands of words at varying degrees of difficulty: venom, insomnia, formidable, arborescent, incognizant, cronyism, fitful, etc.

Each time users choose the correct definition of the word, the site's sponsors -- which include Macy's, American Express, Apple, Toshiba and Office Depot -- donate funds to WFP to pay for 10 grains of rice.

Building vocabulary, fighting hunger

FreeRice automatically adjusts to a player's vocabulary level. When a player gets a word wrong, the next word provided is from an easier level.

When a player gets three consecutive words right, he or she moves to a higher degree of difficulty. There are 50 levels in total, but FreeRice staff contends it's rare for people to advance past level 48.

The idea was partially inspired by Breen's son, who was studying vocabulary in preparation for his SAT exams. The site boasts the game will improve a player's effectiveness at work and school through improved communication, persuasion, comprehension and interview skills.

"It's addictive," Vaupel said. "You can set targets, whether that is how many grains of rice you want to get to, how many bowls you want to fill or what level you want to keep."

Hunger claims more lives every year than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Vaupel pointed out that first-world charity is generally motivated by devastating crisis, leaving on-going emergencies desperate for funds.

She explained that the only restriction on funds raised by the website is that WFP must purchase rice instead of other foods. The organization is then free to choose who receives the rice and when.

The program also allows WFP to purchase rice from local farmers, which stimulates the local economy and contributes to agricultural sustainability in the region.

WFP is currently working with 1,000 organizations in more than 75 countries to provide the rice to those in need. In 2006, WFP provided 4 million tons of food for 87.8 million people -- 58.8 million of those were children.

Poverty, a global reality:

* An estimated 25,000 people die everyday from hunger, according to WFP. Across the world, one child dies every five seconds from malnutrition or hunger.
* Iron deficiency accounts for 22 per cent of all maternal deaths and is the most prevalent form of malnutrition worldwide, affecting an estimated 2 billion people.
* According to International Food Policy Research Group, more than 1 billion people live on less than US$1 per day.


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