Nardi: The gift of giving

 

 

Tom Nardi

Since you started reading this sentence, two people have died of hunger. Every four seconds worldwide, one person succumbs to chronic hunger, and 800 million go to sleep every night without enough to eat. The most distressing factor of these numbers is our chronically imbalanced apportionment of food.

The UN estimated in 2001 that the world produced enough grain alone to allot every person on the planet 3,500 calories per day. However, over 90 percent of the world’s hungry are poor, with little or no means to buy the food they need – especially if it is across the ocean in North America or Europe. But what would you say if I told you that you could help correct this imbalance from the comfort of your own computer chair?

My roommate, Mike Salvati, recently told me about a new Web site launched this October called FreeRice.com. The setup is a fairly basic vocabulary quiz. You open the site and are presented with a multiple-choice definition question. For example, disparage means what? Acquit, jeopardize, belittle or retract? After you answer one question, you are directed to another, and as you answer more questions the game adjusts to your skill level.

What makes the game unique, though, is how it spends its ad revenue. When you open a single exercise, the Web site scrolls an ad at the bottom of the page. While you continue to answer questions more ads are shown.

Every time you answer a question right, the site donates the equivalent of 20 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Program. Instead of being just a handout, the WFP sponsors a variety of programs that take a unique approach to solving hunger problems.

Of primary importance, the WFP always attempts to buy food from local markets for distribution. Local purchasing has a twofold purpose. First, it reduces costs, as more rice for Bangladesh could be bought in Bangladesh than could be bought in Nebraska and shipped. The purchases also serve to stimulate local economies, helping to alleviate the root cause of hunger: poverty.

The WFP also tries to encourage education efforts by offering meals through schools. This aspect of WFP operation addresses the fact that 400 million of the worldwide hungry are children, and 100 million do not attend school. In addition to distributing food to the needy, the WFP attempts to give people the means to lift themselves out of poverty by getting an education. The WFP provided meals to 21.7 million school children in 2005.

This food-for-education program also helps to address the problem of children orphaned by AIDS. Children who lose either one or both parents to AIDS are more prone to being chronically malnourished.

Those children are also more likely to be deprived of education as they assume head-of-household roles to help raise their siblings.

The WFP sponsors education programs such as the school meals program and also the Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools. The schools provide adolescents agricultural skills that they might not otherwise receive.

The WFP also tries to stimulate labor with its distribution programs. WFP pays laborers in food to build infrastructure improvements, like irrigation and terracing. Specifically, in countries prone to drought, increased irrigation can increase food production up to 400 percent.

The WFP also offers food assistance to ex-soldiers who give up their weapons and to farmers who practice sustainable farming methods.

From education programs to AIDS outreach to labor assistance, the WFP makes a strong effort to help improve the economies of the areas in which they are active. Instead of providing handouts the program attempts to improve local economies, in the hopes that these areas will eventually become self sufficient.

The site’s popularity and impact has risen exponentially since its launch – growing from 537,163,380 grains donated in October to 4,768,969,790 grains in November. And people have taken its mission to heart as well as the game itself.

“I am glad that there is another Web site, in addition to the Hunger Site, that makes it its mission to feed the world’s hungry,” Villanova senior Andrew Callery said. “Not only does it make me aware of my lack of vocabulary, but it enables me to help those who I will never meet.”

Just imagine. You can support the entire U.N. World Food Program by playing a simple word game online. So go log in to FreeRice.com, improve your vocabulary and help alleviate world hunger.

——————–

Tom Nardi is a senior political science major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]