Yes – but it might be doing more harm than good.
Let's start with their mission statement: "For each answer you get right, we donate 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to help end hunger."
This is 100% true – Freerice.com does indeed donate rice for each question you answer right. The donations are paid for by revenue generated from advertising that appears on the website. But that's not the problem. The problem is that free food aid can be very harmful to developing countries.
This idea is backed up by reports from The National Bureau of Economic Research, Harvard University, Reuters, The Economist, and The New York Times, to name just a few. Most of the criticism circulates around two main points: food aid hurts local farmers, and often gets misallocated. Both of these things can be disastrous.
Instead of empowering farmers by helping develop more effective agricultural programs, charities like the World Food Programme take the quick-fix approach of sending over mass amounts of free food. This decimates local agriculture prices, hurting farmers who cannot compete with 'free.' These communities then become dependent on international food aid, never reaching the level of self-sufficiency that would truly end hunger once and for all.
George Odo, a care.org official, said it best: "If someone wants to help, they shouldn't do it by destroying the very thing that they're trying to promote." Unfortunately, good intentions don't always lead to good results.
During the 1983-1985 Ethiopia famine that resulted in over 400,000 deaths, the BBC reported that up to 95% of the cash allocated for food was instead used by rebels to purchase weapons. A rebel leader during this time was also charged with withholding food from supporters of his political opposition.
But this isn't just an issue from the past. In 2010, the World Food Programme was heavily criticized for working with transporters allegedly involved in weapons trading. In this particular incident, up to 50% of the food aid sent to Somalia was diverted elsewhere – some of it to militant groups. Sudanese officials have also been accused of siphoning off donations for themselves.
At the very least, you should heavily consider these points before supporting Freerice or any similar websites. While they were made with good intentions, their outcomes haven't been so great – and we can do a lot better. Educate your friends, family, and students about these issues, and encourage them to do their own research on the matter.
If you're looking for a better alternative – then it has to be BeanBeanBean! That's because I never send money to international food aid programs, where it could be harmful or misdirected. I instead partner only with US-based food charities and natural disaster relief efforts.
Check out my How It Works page for a detailed list of every one of my donations. I am very careful in picking charities that can maximize the impact per dollar with as little overheard as possible.
Article by Ethan Dirks, creator of BeanBeanBean