WFP and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), are launching a contest in which young people from across the United States will compete for first prize in a video game contest.
The game, Food Force, simulates the challenges of aid workers reaching poor people with food in times of crisis.
Top prize in the Food Force Bowl 2006 will be an all-expenses-paid trip for the winner and a chaperone to the big Bowl game in Detroit in February.
The contest will be introduced publicly on Monday, Dec. 12, at the Patria Mirabal School (MS324) in New York City’s Washington Heights – and will run throughout January.
Computers for Youth
It is deeply gratifying to have terrific, far-reaching organizations like the National Football League Players Association partner with us
Judith Lewis, Director, US Relations for WFP
Some 100 sixth-graders from the school have been practicing the Food Force game on computers donated by Computers for Youth, a New York City non-profit organization that distributes home computers and educational software to schoolchildren in low-income neighborhoods.
Food Force is an animated computer video game that helps young people understand the issue of world hunger – and the humanitarian work of WFP to fight it – through the playing of six realistic missions.
Set on the fictitious island of Sheylan, players must locate refugees, plan appropriate food packets (based on nutritional needs of population), and figure out how to deliver the food and air drop it to people in remote villages.
The biggest challenge comes at the end – when players must select from limited resources to help a village become self-sufficient within 10 years.
Since its launch on the web last spring at www.food-force.com, where it can be downloaded for free, Food Force has been downloaded at least 2.5 million times – second only to America’s Army among Internet-based video games.
It is being translated into four languages to start (Japanese, Chinese, French, Italian) and has been embraced by educators throughout the world because it is not only entertaining and challenging, but offers a strong ethical message.
Food Force has also proved an appealing alternative to teachers and parents concerned about overt violence and sex in commercial video games.
“Food Force is a wonderful educational tool,” says Julie Shannon, a teacher at Patria Mirabal public school who has gotten students there working on related projects involving hunger and food crises in countries from Guatemala to Pakistan.
“My kids have enjoyed playing it and many have really taken to the world hunger issue … the game is very cool, graphic-wise, and culturally, it’s awesome!”
Sixth-graders at Ms. Shannon’s school will host representatives of WFP as well as a high-profile NFL player on Monday, Dec. 12, for an interactive session on global hunger – and an introduction to the WFP/NFLPA-sponsored Food Force Bowl 2006 contest.
The non-profit Computers for Youth (CFY) works with public schools in low-income neighborhoods where they offer all sixth-grade families home computers loaded with educational software.
CFY decided to install Food Force on 2000-plus computers after “test-marketing” the game with kids in their summer program – where it was a hit; it plans to distribute another 3000 computers loaded with the game in 2006.
“It seemed the right fit for our objectives of improving the learning environment at home, and thus enhancing the educational experience of schoolchildren from disadvantaged areas,” says Kallen Tsikalas, Director of Research and Learning Services for Computers for Youth.
WFP launched Food Force as part of a wide-ranging effort to engage young people in the fight against hunger. An estimated 852 million people are chronically hungry in the world, a number that is rising by some 10 million a year.
Of these, some 25,000 people die each day of hunger and related ailments – or one person dead every five seconds - killing more people than TB, Malaria and AIDS combined. Most of the deaths are among children.
“We have to take our campaign to fight hunger to every sector of society. We especially look to the future leaders of tomorrow to involve themselves and ultimately help us come up with a solution,” says Judith Lewis, Director of US Relations for WFP.
“It is unconscionable that in this era where food is cheaper and more plentiful than ever, that even one child should die of hunger. Worse, we are in danger of losing this battle.
“That’s why it is deeply gratifying to have terrific, far-reaching organizations like the National Football League Players Association partner with us to get the message out across the United States,” Lewis added.
“Civic-minded organizations like Computers for Youth and schools like Patria Mirabal are also vital in helping us reach out to young people, encouraging them to get involved and help make a difference…. So, as our contest slogan says: “Get off the sidelines and play!’ ”
US contestants in the Food Force Bowl 2006 can register for the special contest edition of game on the Food Force website – scheduled to start Dec. 19, 2005. The contest will run through January 22, 2006.