Play a game, feed the world

Lacey Mason,

WASHINGTON – Nearly a billion people worldwide are undernourished, according to 2010 estimates, and hunger contributes to the deaths of 5 million children each year.

The number of hungry people worldwide was expected to decline in 2010 for the first time in 15 years, but undernourishment climbed steadily from 1997 to 2009, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Of the estimated 925 million hungry people, 98 percent are in developing countries with 40 percent in China and India alone. aims to change that.

Founded in 2007, Freerice lets users donate grains of rice simply by correctly answering educational questions. The site earns money from advertisement banners displayed while users play, and in turn uses the funds to purchase rice.

The rice is distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP), an organization that also focuses on self-reliance and emergency preparedness in an effort to battle hunger.

Originally, Freerice consisted of vocabulary games, but now it includes a range of subjects including languages, sciences, humanities and even SAT preparation. Each subject contains levels, so you can challenge yourself or make the game easy if you want to donate rice more quickly. English vocabulary, for example, has 60 levels.

More advanced vocabulary levels have words like “synchysis,” “glaive” and “sassaby,” while the easiest levels have words like “sick” and “bug.”

Each correct answer earns 10 grains of rice, and there’s no limit on how many questions you can answer. The questions automatically adjust as you play based on how well you’re doing. If you get a question wrong, you’ll be shown the correct answer and given an opportunity to try again a few questions later.

Here are some quick facts about hunger from the WFP:

  • Hunger kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
  • One out of four children in developing countries is underweight. (UNICEF, 2007)
  • There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of the U.S., Canada and European Union.
  • About half the world’s population is women, but they account for 60 percent of the world’s hungry. (ECOSOC, 2007)
  • 65 percent of the world’s hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. (FAO, 2010)
  • Undernutrition contributes to 5 million deaths of children under 5 each year in developing countries. (UNICEF, 2006)

Freerice maintains that 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to the WFP in order to feed the hungry.

And you thought high school math would never apply in the real world.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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