November 9, 2007 By Gina M. Scott
Yesterday marked the one billionth grain of rice donated to U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) through an innovative, dynamic online campaign -- FreeRice.com. The head of the WFP, Josette Sheeran, has acclaimed the phenomenal success of Internet-based vocabulary game as an example of the Web's power to mobilize millions of people in the fight against global hunger.
"Every grain of rice is essential in the fight against hunger," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, adding that hunger claims more lives than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. "FreeRice really hits home how the Web can be harnessed to raise awareness and funds for the world's number one emergency. The site is a viral marketing success story with more than one billion grains of rice donated in just one month to help tackle hunger worldwide."
On the site people play a vocabulary game, and for every correct answer, the site donates 10 grains of rice to WFP. The game keeps track of the vocabulary level, which goes as high as 50. "When you get three words in a row right, you go to a harder level. This one-to-three ratio is best for keeping you at the 'outer fringe' of your vocabulary, where learning can take place," the site explains.
Just 830 grains of rice were donated on FreeRice's October 7 launch date. Since then, bloggers and social networking sites like YouTube and Facebook have helped spread the word and, on November 8 alone, over 70 million grains were donated -- equivalent to more than seven million clicks on the site.
FreeRice is the latest brainchild of U.S. online fundraising pioneer John Breen, who first tied funds to clicks on the Web in 1999 with the Hunger Site, at the time, a WFP partner. Breen runs the Poverty.com Web site, a portal for information and facts about hunger and related diseases. FreeRice relies on private companies' ad space payments to underwrite donations to WFP. Rice is a vital part of WFP's food ration in Asia, Latin America and many African countries.