David Ryan Palmer: Feed the world, 20 grains at a time

David Ryan Palmer

Every day, people play the crossword, jumble, Scrabble or any of a thousand word games across the world.

Word games are popular, plus they increase a person's vocabulary, which makes a person smarter, more communicative and a better person overall.

Every day, people die of hunger in places all over the world. Hunger is a problem, and as one often sees on television, people die.

Now, there is a Web site that can, at the same time, make a person smarter and save lives.

That site is called, and the idea is simple. On the site is a vocabulary matching game. You're given a few tries to set your level, then every time you miss one you go down a level. Every three tries that you're right, you go up a level. Each level includes harder and harder words.

From the Frequently Asked Questions document of

"FreeRice has a custom database containing thousands of words at varying degrees of difficulty. There are words appropriate for people just learning English and words that will challenge the most scholarly professors. In between are thousands of words for students of all ages, business people, homemakers, doctors, truck drivers, retired people … everyone!"

For every correct answer,'s sponsors (there are advertising banners on the site, that's how they generate their revenue) donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. That doesn't seem like much, though in the few minutes I've been playing (and playing it even as I write this article, the game is simply addictive), I've accumulated 680 grains of rice.

A wooden bowl on the side of the screen fills up with rice as you play, so you have a visual reminder of your progress.

According to the site's Totals page, the month of May brought in 4,657,641,260 grains of rice. That's over four and a half trillion grains. More than a few bowls, I'm sure.

How many people did you feed yesterday when you finished the crossword or the jumble? When your family got together to play Scrabble? (That last one might be a bad example; everytime we've played Scrabble, we've had pizza.)

Go play for a few minutes. Strengthen your vocabulary. Beat my score. Feed some hungry people. You'll have wasted time AND done something productive in the very same action. And if your boss finds you goofing off while on the site, just say that you're expanding your vocabulary so that the next report or article you write won't be so boring.

Southwest Daily News