His Word Game Feeds Thousands

updated 03/17/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/17/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

John Breen, 50
Bloomington, Ind.

John Breen had a problem: How to get his son, Ben, 16, to study for the SATs? Failing to motivate with flash cards, Breen, a computer programmer, devised a PC-based, multiple-choice vocabulary quiz that builds word knowledge with the click of a mouse. Soon Breen became convinced he had a hit as well as a tool to address a cause he cared about—world hunger. Launching FreeRice.com in October 2007, he put 10,200 word-definition challenges online—rewarding each correct answer with a donation of 20 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Program. His effort, funded by corporate advertising, has generated 20 billion grains of rice—enough to feed nearly a million people for a day. "It's fantastic," says Douglas Broderick, the World Food Program's Bangladesh director. Adds Hasina Begom, a 32-year-old widow living in a refugee camp with her 8-year-old daughter: "I depend on the rice." And Breen? He still hasn't figured out how to get Ben to buckle down—SATs are this fall—but he's sure of one thing: "Ending hunger is doable. It's just a question of getting the word out."


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