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Free Rice
by Asa Butcher
2007-11-13 10:06:29
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Earlier this week I saw a 'Free Rice' headline on the BBC website and my immediate response was how the hell did somebody manage to kidnap the United States' Secretary of State? A few moments later I realised that Condoleezza Rice was safe and well, and the headline actually referred to a new website vocabulary game, which raises money through advertising for the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to buy rice.

As of November 11th, just five weeks since its launch, FreeRice.com has donated the equivalent of 1,330,639,890 grams of rice – 'donated the equivalent' because they are not sitting on a pile of rice. Every 10g of rice is paid for by the advertisers, which currently include Radisson Hotels, iTunes, American Express, Macy's, Fujitsu, Time Life, Mac, Office Depot, Reader's Digest, Liz Claiborne and Toshiba.

The weight this group of successful companies has lent to the campaign suggests that their participation works. Here at Ovi we regularly highlight the relentless grip that poverty has upon the globe and occasionally we helpless knowing that about 25,000 people die each day from hunger or hunger-related causes, most of them children, so when we see a simple idea that offers hope it is our duty to promote it.

FreeRice.com has not only donated the equivalent of 1,300 tonnes of rice via the WFP, it also helps build your vocabulary. This is the addictive element of the website and you will soon notice words that you have never consciously used before appearing in your daily life; it is a jocund feeling. The site has a database containing thousands of words at varying degrees of difficulty and it ingeniously adjusts to your current level of vocabulary.

It starts by giving you words at different levels of difficulty and then, based on how you do, assigns you an approximate starting level. You then determine a more exact level for yourself as you play. When you get a word wrong, you go to an easier level. When you get three words in a row correct you advance a level, so this one-to-three ratio keeps you at the “outer fringe” of your vocabulary, where learning can take place. There are 50 levels in all, but FreeRice.com say it is rare for people to get above level 48 – I'm hovering around level 38.

The World Food Program is the world’s largest food aid agency, working with over 1,000 other organizations in over 75 countries. In addition to providing food, the World Food Program helps hungry people to become self-reliant so that they escape hunger for good. Wherever possible, the World Food Program buys food locally to support local farmers and the local economy. We encourage you to visit the United Nations World Food Program to learn more about their successful approach to ending hunger.

In addition to the website, you can add your name to the One Campaign, where several million people have already joined together “as One” to end hunger and extreme poverty. If enough people join, dreams for a better world can be made into reality very quickly.

In the course of writing this and flicking back and forth to the website, I have donated 1040 grains of rice.


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Emanuel Paparella2007-11-13 15:43:16
One wonders if Hugo Chavez must is also playing this game, considering his increasing rhetoric about world hunger. When he becomes a dictator in his own right he will dazzle us with his vocabulary and will be transformed before our eyes into "charismatic Man." Deja vu?

Alexandra Pereira2007-11-14 02:03:40
Very interesting.

David LEO2009-06-09 02:17:54

FreeRice.com is such a good idea.

I'm currently running a campaign to reduce hunger in the World (using freerice.com).

If you wish to find out more about the campaign please visit the following link:


Many thanks.

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