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Cultivating FreeRice

The World Food Programme announced Saturday that Berkman Award Winner John Breen has expanded FreeRice to include more games; and he will be collaborating with the Berkman Center on further developing and supporting FreeRice.

Here is the press release from the World Food Programme:

Rome, 31 August 2008 - The FreeRice web vocabulary phenomenon that has captured the imagination of millions of people around the world has now turned its attention to an exciting range of new games encompassing art, maths, language and chemistry.

“FreeRice has shown that a simple click of a mouse can do so much to help a hungry world,” said the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Director of Communications, Nancy Roman. “For the user, it’s fun, it’s free, and it allows them to make a difference.”

Since its launch in October 2007, FreeRice has been a runaway success, attracting a growing number of users to its ingenious vocabulary game that generates a donation of rice to the WFP for every correct answer submitted.

Multiplication, capital cities, famous painters...

With the launch of new games on the site, players will now be able to test their knowledge of multiplication, world capital cities, chemical symbols, foreign languages and even the styles of famous painters. Every correct answer generates a donation of 20 grains of rice to WFP.

“These extra games will really push FreeRice to another level,” said the website’s creator, John Breen. “Students and teachers from across the world loved the vocabulary game. Now, with pupils about to return to classes after the summer break, they have a chance to test their skills and knowledge in different and exciting new disciplines.”

40 billion grains of rice

Over the ten months since its launch, FreeRice has generated more than 40 billion grains of rice in donations to WFP – enough to feed more than 2 million people for a day.

As the new games come on-line, there is an opportunity to attract more players and increase donations of rice to the world’s hungry. So far, donations generated by the FreeRice site have been sent to feed hungry people in Bangladesh, Uganda, Nepal and – most recently – Myanmar, where hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless when Cyclone Nargis struck in May this year.

Servers support

In another new development, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University has offered to provide servers to host the FreeRice site and to work with John Breen on developing new ideas and content. Until now, Breen had been providing server support for FreeRice using his own funds.

“John Breen has spawned a financial and conceptual architecture expressed through the Net that integrates education, brand advertising, and philanthropy in a matter that truly serves students and teachers,” said Charles Nesson, founder of the Berkman Center. “We hope to grow and spread this seed.”

Funding for the purchase of rice for WFP comes from private sector sponsors who pay to advertise on the FreeRice site. The latest to sign up are the US food group YUM! and the consumer goods multinational, Unilever. Both are already corporate supporters of WFP.