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Should you trust FreeRice.com?

Posted at 11:16 AM on November 13, 2007 by Jon Gordon

Today on Future Tense (RealAudio - MP3 - iTunes) I interviewed John Breen, creator of the FreeRice site that quizzes users on vocabulary words, then rewards correct answers with donations of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. Money for the donations comes from ads on the site.

Breen, a computer programmer from Bloomington, IN, has a positive track record in creating sites to help alleviate poverty and hunger. He previously created The Hunger Site and Poverty.com. However, there's no transparency to FreeRice. Users have know way of knowing how much money Breen is generating or what percentage of the revenue is going to the U.N. for rice.

I asked Breen about this. He said there were too many hurdles to becoming a registered nonprofit group, which would expose his books to public scrutiny. So he told me you'll just have to trust him. He said he's donating 100 percent of the revenue to the World Food Program, which has said nice things about FreeRice. And his Hunger Site won a Webby award back in the day, so he appears quite trustworthy. But FreeRice would be more effective if it were more transparent.