By Kevin Tibbles, NBC News correspondent
The other evening, after our story on the internet computer game 'Freerice.com" aired on Nightly News, someone near and dear to me said, "You know, that is the first time in a long time I have seen a story about the internet that is actually positive!".
It now appears many of Nightly's viewers either agreed, or were curious enough to find out for themselves. The 'freerice' website has virtually exploded with people logging on to play the game, learn a few new words and, most importantly, donate rice to the world's needy.
Now, before I get too far down the track... here's what freerice.com is.
It's a little computer game invented by Bloomington, Indiana programmer John Breen. Breen was thinking of ways to help his son expand his vocabulary and study for his SAT's. But, as a quiet spoken fellow with a social conscience, Breen didn't let it end at that. So, voila 'freerice' was born.
You log on to the site... the game offers you a word, and then four definitions.
If you pick the correct definition 20 grains of rice are donated to the UN's World Food Program. In the six months the game has been up and running, enough rice to feed one million people for a day has been donated. The game costs nothing to play, and all the rice is paid for by the websites advertisers. For me, I found the whole concept so simple, it was brilliant.
Now, that is enough of a feat in itself to be worthy of a Nightly News spot!
Producer Hilary Guy and I visited the kids at the Fairview Elementary School in Bloomington to watch them play; and every one of them said it was a) fun b)good to learn new words and c) great to help out people in need around the world.
Their teacher told us another benefit was that her students were now engaged in issues effecting communities far away from middle America.
Perhaps these are the same sentiments that touched so many of our viewers, because after the story ran John Breen tells me "the amount of rice given MORE THAN DOUBLED OVERNIGHT!". From just under 180 million grains of rice on one day, to 350 million the next.
He adds the figures are continuing to go up, and that can only be a good thing...especially as newscasts are now beginning to include stories about rising food prices, food shortages and especially rice shortages in many parts of the world.
According to food agencies, the price of a ton of rice has more than doubled in just the past two months.
So, from his little office in the Midwest, John Breen has stumbled onto something that, at the very least, will help feed a few more people. What he also has done is create a vehicle for regular folks to help contribute. And, like I said, it is fast, it is fun and it doesn't cost you a dime.