Thought for food

A million words for rice
By CLIF GARBODEN  |  January 16, 2008

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If you’re going to waste your time (or your company’s time) online, stop thinking about porn or poker and do something constructive. The Free Rice Web site lets you sharpen your vocabulary and feed the world’s hungry. The (totally) nonprofit site presents you with an addictive SAT-style vocab test. Using money from their sponsors, whose (largely unnoticed) ads rotate along the bottom of the Web page, Free Rice donates 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP, at wfp.org) every time you answer correctly. No, it’s not much per word, but it adds up.

Unlike a real SAT multiple-choice quiz, the Free Rice people don’t try to fool you with misleading options (“astronomical”: a) huge; b) heavenly), so you can pretty much follow your instincts and advance through the site’s 50 levels of difficulty. (Free Rice claims most people never get beyond 48 — but they do.) If you miss a question, you drop down a level, but nobody subtracts any rice, so you can plug away forever.

The words start out easy with things like “swaddle”: a) fasten; b) cite; c) mash; d) wrap in cloth, and progress to the realm of the unfamiliar — for example, “caprine”: a) inactive; b) goat-like; c) ambiguous; d) downhearted.

Often, you can guess correctly just by matching the parts of speech — “inanition”: a) mute; b) gown; c) emptiness; d) tidbit — which gives grammarians and Latin scholars an edge, but there’s no shortage of math and science terms to even things out.

Free Rice has been around since this past October, and as of New Year’s had donated enough rice to feed 50,000 people for one day — apportion that as you will. If you need further incentive to play (or need a good excuse if your boss catches you messing around online), WFP reminds you that each day 25,000 people die from hunger. And if guilt does it for you, try this: Americans throw out $50 billion worth of food per year. That’s downright “profligate.”

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  Topics: This Just In , Hunger, United Nations World Food Programme
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