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Friday, September 14, 2012

How does freerice.com work?

Freerice.com is a vocabulary/educational game which claims that "For each answer you get right, we donate 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to help end hunger."

It's worth playing; go ahead and give it a try. It starts out with really easy vocabulary:


and as you get them right, the difficulty increases:

For those of you who care, the correct answer was "binding."
and there are some other subjects too, besides vocabulary (though the other subjects don't seem to have as many levels of difficulty):


After playing for 10 minutes, I earned 1560 grains of rice.



So, is this legit? Are they really donating 10 grains of rice for each right answer?

Well, the short answer is no. No one is sitting there counting out 10 grains of rice as I click through the vocabulary questions. So the "You have now donated 1560 grains of rice" thing is not literally true.

Instead, Freerice donates the equivalent amount of money to the UN World Food Programme, which then uses it to buy rice and give it those who need it.

So even though it's not literally true, it is legitSnopes confirms this.

What is the UN World Food Programme?

Check out their website. The World Food Programme is a huge organization that works in 73 countries to provide food for those who are without it- either because of some emergency situation (war, natural disasters) or in cases where there is ongoing need (providing school meals, providing food for those suffering from HIV/AIDS, etc).

Seriously, I recommend clicking around on their website. There's a lot of information there. This is important stuff to know- hunger affects 925 million of our brothers and sisters.

Where does the money come from? If Freerice has the money anyway, why do I have to play this game in order for them to donate?

The money comes from the companies who buy ad space on the website. They pay for pageviews and clicks- so no, Freerice does not have a pile of money just waiting. Freerice earns it from the advertisers as you click through the questions on the site.

Okay, so what difference am I making? How much rice is 1560 grains, anyway?

From some googling, I have determined that there are about 7000 grains of (uncooked) rice in a cup, and that it expands to maybe double or triple volume when cooked.

So my 1560 grains of rice translates into about 1/2 cup cooked.

According to this site, rice costs about $600 per metric ton (this is a much lower rate than what you pay for a 5-lb bag at the grocery store). Again, after some googling, I am finding that there are 15-50 grains of rice in 1 gram. We'll use 30 grains for the math here.

My 1560 grams of rice costs 3 cents.

I mean, when you get tons of people playing this free rice game, it adds up... but I'm really not making that much of a difference.

Does this mean I have a moral responsibility to spend all my free time playing free rice?

No one should go hungry. I can't imagine what that's like. Giving other people food is more important than whatever else I'm doing with my spare time, right? Eh, no, I don't think so.

As I just calculated, playing Freerice for 10 minutes donates 3 cents. So, that's $0.18/hour. What's minimum wage? Not that. If you want to help people, go get a real job and then donate from your salary. If your only goal is to get out there and change the world, then Freerice is a waste of time.

You should play Freerice if you like it. Personally I was entertained by it when I played- but not enough to come back and play every day. If it's a game you think is fun, hey, go for it. But if you think it's boring, then DUDE, don't play, and don't feel guilty about that. Donating a few cents is not worth sacrificing your spare time and doing something you hate.

I think this game is probably good for kids because it's educational. I could totally see this being used by middle school or high school teachers. The kids learn stuff (from a bunch of different subjects) and you have the added bonus of feeding the hungry. Freerice is a pretty good idea for this context.

So I'll leave my readers with this question: Anyone beat my 1560 grains of rice, playing JUST the English vocabulary game for 10 minutes?

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