Ten grains, 20 students, a little less hunger
Published on 29 March 2011

Students at ICS play FreeRice in their maths class. Copyright: WFP/Allison Bream

Students at the International Community School (ICS) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia played FreeRice as part of the school's first FreeRice Week, a student-organized event that aimed to get sixth, seventh and eigth graders playing the online quiz and learning about hunger issues. Watch video

Simon Bruns is good at maths and he has the rice to prove it.

The 12-year-old from Germany attends the International Community School (ICS) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The aspiring astronomer sits in his sixth grade mathematics class, leaning over his laptop, clicking on answers faster than the computer can load the questions:

888 – 222 =
642 + 322  =
43 x 75 =

He’s playing FreeRice as part of ICS’s first FreeRice Week, a student-organized event that aims to get sixth, seventh and eighth graders playing the online quiz and learning about hunger issues.

The event is the brainchild of Kara Hostetter and Jennifer Thieulin, 16 year-old students at ICS. They reckoned it was important to talk about hunger issues, especially in Ethiopia:

“We’re part of a school that’s really privileged", Kara explains. "We have access to a lot of things, including food every day. Even though we live in Ethiopia and there’s a lot of hunger around us, we aren’t necessarily aware of it. We planned FreeRice Week because we wanted to raise awareness of the global issues outside of our ‘box’.”

Using other schools’ FreeRice activities as a model, Kara and Jennifer enlisted the support of the middle school principal and began approaching teachers, requesting that they integrate FreeRice into regular class time during the week. It proved immensely popular idea. Thousands of grains of rice were ‘earned’ for children around the world.

To encourage debate about hunger, the week concluded with a presentation from Gerard Rebello, Deputy Head of Logistics of WFP Ethiopia. Some 100 students sat rapt as they watched a video showing WFP’s work, from children enjoying school meals  to boats crossing rivers to reach people in need. The video stimulated questions ranging from the basic “How does WFP get food?” to the practical “What if food falls on someone during an airdrop?”

The week got students like Simon thinking seriously about food for the first time. “Sometimes I get embarrassed when I eat food in front of people who don’t have any,” he reflects. But he knows that the 1230 grains of rice he earned today are making a small difference. “I feel like I’m doing something to help,” he says.