How a programmer from Indiana educated and fed millions

John Breen studied economics in college when he discovered a cruel paradox.

About 30% of the world’s population is overweight or obese… yet every five seconds a child dies from hunger. That’s six million children every year — 30 million people total.

After college he became a computer programmer, but he never forgot these issues.

In 1999 John created TheHungerSite.com — the world’s first “click-to-donate” website.

Visitors clicked an advertisement daily. Ad revenue went to buy one cup of food for the hungry. It took off, but John never accepted an income from it. Eventually he sold it to GreaterGood.com, an online shopping mall that gave part of its sales to charity.

Then in 2007, when he was 49, John was teaching one of his sons vocabulary for the SAT. He created a simple website with a quiz like: “Peek means (a) carpet (b) woods (c) mom (d) quick look.” He spent the rest of the summer entering 10,000 words and their definitions.

He added advertising to this website, too. When a visitor answered the quiz correctly, 10 grains of rice went to the U.N. World Food Programme.  “It’s hard to get people to read about hunger and poverty,” Breen says. “[S]o I had to think of an entertaining way to draw people in.”

He made FreeRice.com live on October 7th, 2007. It exploded.

830 grains donated the first day, then 6 million in a week, 537 million in a month, and 40 billion in a year. That’s enough food to feed 5,000 people every day for a year!

Jennifer Parmelee, spokesman for the World Food Programme, said,  “We are all kind of dazzled by the power of a great idea — an idea that seemed to have come completely out of left field.”

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