UN World Food Programme

From the Intern Desk - Christine

I’m humbled by the versatility of rice. That may seem like an odd admission, but for such a tiny grain, rice has a lot of clout.

The evidence is undeniable: When cooked, rice becomes a nutritious meal. When puff-baked, you have a snack. With the help of cream, sugar, eggs, and milk, rice becomes dessert. We get a lot out of that tiny grain: bowls of rice, rice cakes, rice pudding, Rice Krispies — the list goes on.

Another word should be thrown into the word-association mix: education.

Since arriving at the World Food Programme, I've learned a lot from rice. For many people our organisation helps, rice remains a staple in their diet. Four hundred grams of rice feeds one person for a whole day. Before my internship began, I had no idea what rice had to offer.

The most recent addition to my long list of reasons to love rice is Free Rice. It’s a web site based on the relationship between hunger and education. With every correct answer, 10 grains of rice is donated to WFP, and we distribute it to those who need it most. Even though I’ve been an intern here for eleven weeks, I only played it for the first time several days ago.

Part of my internship responsibilities includes responding to questions Free Rice users send to the site account. As I sorted through the feedback, I read so many positive stories and personal accounts of how useful Free Rice is. Some people use it to practice vocabulary for standardized tests, others tweak their math skills, and some use it to develop vocabulary in multiple languages. Amidst the rave reviews, I went weeks without answering a single question.

Now, I’m addicted.

I speak English, and that’s pretty much it. I know a bit of French, and I’ve picked up about three Italian phrases since I’ve been in Rome. Being in Europe, that doesn’t really cut it. After travelling to Paris two weeks ago and Sicily the week after that, my motivation to enhance my language skills soared, and I remembered Free Rice.

At night, while I’m waiting for water to boil so I can cook dinner, I play. If I’m waiting for a video to load online, I click on the Free Rice tab in my web browser — it’s always open. When I was brainstorming my next blog entry, I played Free Rice to settle my writer’s block. In doing so, I clearly found my inspiration.

The programme has reached people in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Cambodia, and Uganda. To date, Free Rice has donated more than 76 billion grains of rice to the hungry, and the total grows every day. It may be one little grain, but it’s a big deal.

So here’s to you, Rice. Thanks for providing the world with tasty treats, nutritious meals, and a little bit of education on the side. You’re one heck of a carbohydrate.

Christine DiGangi is from Chicago and is interning with Youth Outreach. She loves running, chocolate, and fighting hunger.