MONROE COUNTY Bloomington programmer’s site becomes worldwide sensation

John Breen of B l o o m i n g t o n designed the program behind Freerice.comto help his son study vocabulary words for the SAT. He had no idea how far his creation would reach.

The site, which is just 3 months old, lately has been attracting more than 500,000 unique visitors a day. It has been featured in dozens of news stories all over the world.

The site quizzes visitors on vocabulary words, and each correct answer results in a donation of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. The project has donated more than 14 billion grains of rice, all funded by advertising revenue.

Breen, a self-employed computer programmer, majored in economics at Harvard. Until recently, he didn’t get many opportunities to put his specialty-Third World economics-into action.

“Most of my life, I’ve been a computer programmer and haven’t been able to do much about it,” said Breen, 50. “When the Internet came along, it allowed me to combine my interests in computer programming and Third World economics.”

He launched the site Oct. 7, after starting another hunger-awareness site,, in January 2007.

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