Ending World Hunger, One Word at a Time

17 Apr

Apart from winning some spelling bees in elementary school and helping me spiff up some essays and papers, I never thought my rather large vocabulary would achieve too many great things.  However, after clicking on a link about some crazed wife trying to denigrate her husband on youtube (they are in divorce proceedings), I came across a much more interesting and uplifting video; a video about rice.

 25,000.  That is the approximate number of people (mainly children) who die each day from hunger or hunger-related causes.  5500.  The number of grains of rice that I ‘won’ and have now donated to help feed these people and help end world hunger.  How?  By my words, or knowledge of them.

The video I clicked on was an interview with the webmaster of, a site that is rapidly becoming one incredible and ingenious way to fight and hopefully end world hunger.  A sister site of, FreeRice uses the power of words to help feed the hungry; 20 grains of rice at a time. 

This non-profit site (really) began as a way to help the founder’s son study for the SAT.  Jon Breen, a comupter programmer from Bloomington, IN, didn’t want to just help his son though.  He had already founded,, and, so why not a site that rewards the user with newfound vernacular knowledge and a sense of beneficence. 

Here’s a quick tutorial.  The user is presented with a word and four definitions.  Each correct answer puts 20 grains of rice in the bowl.  After four introductory words that gauge and set the user’s initial word level.  It then takes three correct answers to move up a level of difficulty, ranging from 1-55, with 1 being the easier words and 55 being the most difficult words in the English language.  The site’s FAQ reports that it is rare that anyone reaches over level 48.  So, each correct answer adds 20 grains of rice and three correct answers moves your level up, challenging your learning growth.  With each incorrect answer you move to an easier level, but no rice is deducted. 

As I stated earlier, I donated 5500 grains of rice, in under 30 minutes (if anyone knows how much 5500 grains of rice amounts to, let me know), and my word level was 40.  I highly recommend this game as an incredible way to increase your vocab.  Some of the words don’t even seem to be English, though they are.  The site states that you will find an amazing thing happening; you will discover random, new words popping into your conversations and writings.  The millions of lives that can and will be saved also seems like a pretty considerable perk. 

FreeRice is partnered with the United Nations World Food Program.  The rice is paid for by the advertisers on the site, and this is making a huge contribution in the fight to end world hunger.  The users of the site have raised over 27 billion grains of rice since its inception in October of 2007.  The UN estimates that it will take $195 billion a year to end world hunger.  To reach this goal, 22 developed countries have joined together to raise the money, each attempting to contribute .7% of their national incomes annually.  For those wondering how their country is doing, check out the totals tab on  The US is only contributing .16% currently, and is last on the list.  I think that’s appalling considering we are supposed to be the richest nation.  The list is pretty eye-opening. 

So, if you are looking for a way to increase your jargon, other than word of the day toilet paper, put your lexicon to the test at FreeRice and do your english teachers proud.  Watch the grains add up and deserving bellies grow full.  Make a difference while playing a game and don’t forget to pass the bowl.


One Response to “ Ending World Hunger, One Word at a Time”

  1. aarontiger April 17, 2008 at 5:26 pm #

    I think I figured up that about 1500 grains of rice is eqal to about a cereal size box of that instant white rice that you can get from the store.

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