If you’re anything like me, you want your life to be a contribution. You try to be of service and to make a difference in the world, but sometimes you need to take a break from your duties and just play. If that sounds familiar, there’s good news: The creators of FreeRice.com had us in mind when they created their site.

Log on to FreeRice.com and you’ll see a multiple choice vocabulary question, something like this:

Virtuous means: Small, Good, Lanky, Spotted.

Upon which you’ll think, “Ooh, I know the answer to THAT one!” So you’ll click on the right answer (hint: it’s not Spotted) and a message will appear at the side of the screen: “You have just donated 20 grains of rice. Please try another word.” Every time you get another word right, your donation grows, and the questions get successively harder.

FreeRice.com relies on funding from sponsors whose banner ads appear at the bottom of the page, and 100 percent of the money raised by the site goes to the UN World Food Programme, the world’s largest food agency.

The site’s aim is twofold: to provide free education to all, and to help end world hunger. The last time I played, I contributed a few thousand grains to the 134,455,680 grains donated that day, and the 57,412,761,290 that have been donated so far. I also learned about 15 useful new words, including caracal, panicle, and wadi. Pretty good for a few minutes of slacking off-not that I’m condoning playing computer games at work, or anything.

And if vocabulary games sound more like work than play to you, there is a range of topics to choose from, among them math, science, art, and geography. So far, my total score at vocab is 49 out of 50 (I held it for a few seconds, anyway), and 10 out of 10 at art history. Beat that.

According to the FAQ portion of the site, about 25,000 people die each day from hunger. Since its foundation in October 2007, FreeRice.com has generated enough rice to feed more than two million people, among them 750,000 in Myanmar who were recovering from a cyclone, and 13,500 pregnant and nursing women in Cambodia. I may not have solved world hunger yet, but I’m making a contribution. Plus, now I know what an acaulescent allium is. Do you?

To learn more, check out FreeRice.com or wfp.org.


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