This is the VOA Special English Development Report.
Whoever thought learning new words could feel socially responsible? A Web site called FreeRice.com is an English vocabulary game. It explains its purpose like this: "For each word you get right, we donate 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program to help end hunger."
The site began in October. It says thirty billion grains of rice have been donated so far. The United Nations World Food Program does not really get rice. The donations are given in the form of money.
Advertisers whose names appear with links at the bottom of the game pay for the rice. Individuals can also become sponsors.
Words are presented with four choices of answers. Players click on the one that best defines the word. If they answer correctly, they get a harder word. If they choose wrong, they get an easier word. Spoken pronunciations are also provided.
Currently, the FreeRice game has fifty-five levels of difficulty. Players rarely get past level forty-eight.
"Does FreeRice make any money from this?" That is one of the frequently asked questions on the site. "No, it does not. FreeRice runs the site at no profit," says the answer.
Internet businessman John Breen created FreeRice. Since October, five hundred seventy metric tons of rice have been donated, enough to feed about a million and a half people for one day.
The game is said to be especially popular with college students and young people who visit social networking sites.
Jennifer Parmelee is a World Food Program spokeswoman in Washington. She says cash donations help the agency to buy food locally and transport it quickly to where it is needed.
For example, with donations from the site, rice for Nepal was recently bought in the area at half the world market price. Bangladesh, Cambodia and Uganda also have received food through FreeRice.
Over the last nine months, though, the cost to secure food aid has increased fifty-five percent. Jennifer Parmelee says this is the biggest crisis the World Food Program has faced in its forty-five year history.
She says creative projects like FreeRice are badly needed right now.
And that’s the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. To learn more about the world food crisis, and to get transcripts and MP3s of our reports, go to voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Steve Ember.