Drew Brees Takes on Maine Students in Rice Bowl Challenge

The New Orleans Saints quarterback and student teammates to battle Maine laptop students in fighting global hunger

AUGUSTA – Super Bowl 2010’s Most Valuable Player Drew Brees and the United Nations World Food Program are challenging students and sports fans to team up for a different kind of bowl game this February, with the goal of beating global hunger.

Brees’ primary competitor? The student team led by students in the Maine Department of Education’s laptop program, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative.

The Rice Bowl Challenge is a week-long competition organized by the award-winning on-line vocabulary game, Freerice.com, in partnership with the Maine Department of Education’s Maine Learning Technology Initiative. New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees is the all-star of the competition, going head-to-head against thousands of students in Maine and across the country to answer trivia questions which earn grains of rice for the hungry.

Through their schools or on their own, students in Maine and across the country can enter the competition – as part of the Maine team or as part of Brees’ team. The Maine Department of Education has also teamed up locally with the Good Shepherd Food Bank to raise money for local food banks.

“Kids, using technology and networks, can change the world,” said Jeff Mao, the state’s director of learning technology. “In education we talk a lot about making learning relevant and engaging. Here we have students using technology to learn, to raise food locally and globally, and to become more aware about international issues.”

The Maine Learning Technology Initiative provides professional development and 21st century tools to middle and high schools to help students meet Maine’s Learning Results standards and supporting equity of opportunity for all students. Maine was the first state to seize the potential of technology to transform teaching and learning in classrooms statewide, providing laptops to all students in grades 7 and 8, and making them available to high schools, about half of which are also participating.

During the Rice Bowl Challenge – February 6 through February 12 – players will compete to see who can tally the most correct answers to the game’s trivia questions, and thus earn the most grains of rice for the hungry. For every correct answer, ten grains of rice are donated through the World Food Program and paid for by advertisers.

Since taking the web by storm in 2007, Freerice.com has raised enough rice to feed more than 4.3 million people for a day. More than 1,000 students raised over 2.4 million grains of rice in Maine’s first-ever rice challenge last year. This year’s event, with the help of Brees, will be much larger. The Department has put out the call and is aiming to recruit 100,000 students to battle for the Bowl in a public school event.

“In football, you need to play smart to win games. The Rice Bowl Challenge is all about playing smart to tackle hunger,” said Brees, who will be building his team through his well-established social media network. “Whether you join my team or the opposing student team, this is a cause worth winning.”

“The challenge is on,” said Nancy Roman, director of communication and private sector parnterships for the World Food Program. “With Drew Brees at the helm of the Rice Bowl, we have a fantastic opportunity to leverage social media networks across the nation and to see what an online community of hunger-fighting trivia fans can do in the fight against hunger.”

For more information about how schools and individuals can join the competition, go to www.maine.gov/mlti or www.freerice.com/ricebowl . Results will be tallied daily from February 6-12 and the top three scorers who rack up the most rice by February 12th win Drew Brees-autographed footballs.

FreeRice.com is a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Program. Its designer, John Breen, developed the simple word game to help his teenage sons prepare for their college entrance exams and in March 2009 donated it to WFP. Driving the donation of rice are an average 40,000 players daily (1.2 million per month). WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Each year, on average, WFP feeds more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries.

WFP now provides RSS feeds to help journalists keep up with the latest press releases, videos and photos as they are published on WFP.org. For more details see: www.wfp.org/rss