freerice + canada’s lack of support to end world hunger.

The wait to combine vocabulary testing and food donation is finally over. Freerice puts your brain to work, and, depending on how smart you are, does some good work too. For every word you get right in their multiple-choice vocab quiz, they’ll donate 20 grains of rice to be distributed through the United Nations World Food Program. Freerice is totally not-for-profit, and the rice itself is donated by the companies advertising on the vocabulary quiz screens.


I played for a few minutes today (and donated 2000 grains, I might add) and didn’t even notice the advertising. Unless it was subliminal, I was pretty focused on making myself feel smart. Since starting up in October 2007, Freerice has already donated 18,775,051,870 grains of rice.

I also took some time to do some research, through the site, on the UN’s fight to eradicate world hunger. What I discovered is that Canadians should be embarrassed.

Why? Aside from perhaps the environment, global poverty and hunger is the number one social issue in the world. Tens of thousands of members of our human family die every day, but we don’t really care because we have to get to work and they’re in Africa and governments are focused on getting re-elected. Now I sound like Adbusters, but it’s a little bit true.

Hunger can be completely stopped, but our governments have chosen not to take action. Not forgotten too, or just not gotten around to it. They’ve chosen.

In March 2000, the 189 member countries of the UN unanimously agreed to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty.” That included Canada.

The UN estimated that the cost to rid the world of hunger would be $195 billion each year. Clearly too much for charities or organizations or Bono to drum up, so it’s in the hands of our governments to fund this promise. As a democracy and supposedly forward-thinking nation, I would have thought Canada would be at the fore-front of this movement. I’d be wrong.


At the Monterrey Conference in March 2002, twenty two of the world’s wealthiest countries (Canada included) pledged to give 0.7% of their Gross National Income to end hunger. That’s less than one percent. That’s 70 cents on every $100 dollars. If all of these 22 countries donated 0.7% of what they earn each year, it would add up to the UN’s $195 billion yearly estimate.

Guess who’s lived up to their promise? Certainly not us. Of the 22 countries, 5 have already donated more than 0.7% – and it’s definitely not shocking that most of them are in Earth’s utopia – Scandinavia; Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, and Luxembourg have already met their promise. Another 11 have begun their donations and are scheduled to have met their goal between 2010 and 2015.

Six countries haven’t done shit. No schedule, no results. Canada, the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland. I suppose not surprisingly, Canada, the US, and Australia were all stagnating under conservative governments while the rest of the world was doing something. (Switzerland, though, that one still baffles me…) But now that change has finally come to Australia, is well on it’s way in the US, and I’m hoping Harper’s little stint will be a one-off, maybe we can finally put our money where our mouths are.

These are rich-ass countries. These are all democracies. There is no reason and it makes me feel shame. Click here to send a letter to Stephen Harper. Then go play some Freerice.

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