To those of you who get this column Q-paged automatically each day, my apologies — I posted yesterday’s too late to make it, so you got a repeat of the day before. Soon Q-Page will be smart enough to send you columns only once they have changed. But for now, here it is again.

To those of you who did read yesterday’s column, here it is again — but with “the answers” appended.

(To those of you who have no idea what Q-Page is, but would like to get this page e-mailed to you automatically each morning, just scroll to the bottom of this page and click the Q-Page button. With AOL, unfortunately, it comes as an attachment. Maybe the forthcoming AOL 5.0 this fall will fix that. But for those with other Internet Service Providers, it seems to work quite well.)

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Have you been to hungersite.com? Every time you visit and click, one of its sponsors buys a hungry person a meal (limit: one click per day). I’ve clicked a few times, and it got me to wondering . . . how do we know they gave away 20,865 meals on July 7? Did the folks from USA Today and Yahoo! who’ve plugged this site checked to be sure? My guess is that, no, they didn’t check, but that, yes, the meals are being distributed, albeit not literally one-by-one on the days listed. I.e., the meal may cost a nickel (we are not talking about steak and potatoes in France — potato, I might note, does have an “e” when it’s plural — but, rather, one and a half cups of rice or something similar in a poor country). Presumably, the sponsor pays hungersite.com on some regular basis, and hungersite.com passes on all or a good chunk of the sponsorship money to groups like the UN’s World Food Program to be used to provide food to the hungry.

I have a call in to the UN World Food Program — listed as the current beneficiary of our largesse — to make sure they have heard of the hungersite.com, and to get an idea of what sort of dollars are involved.

In the meantime, one does wonder who, exactly, the hunger site is. Are there no names or faces out of modesty and altruism — definitely possible — or because full disclosure might tarnish the nice tone of this?

In the Frequently Asked Questions section, you will see no question like, “Who Are You?” or “Who Started This?” Rather: “The Hunger Site was founded as an independent Internet site to help alleviate hunger in the world. It enables people to learn about hunger and to make free donations of food to the hungry. It is not owned by any company or affiliated with any group or organization.”

Fair enough. But that could mean a bright young guy or gal is doing this and taking in a penny or two of his or her own for every click. To which I would say, basically: more power to him or her . . . but disclosure would be nice. (Imagine getting 10 million people a day to click this, and getting a penny from each — $100,000 a day.)

Anyway, I hope to learn a bit more about this. In the meantime, I may set Quickbrowse to include http://www.hungersite.com in my daily fare, so I can quickly and efficiently click. Then again, how many seconds is a nickel even worth? (If your time is worth $20 an hour: 9 seconds.)

If I find out anything interesting, I’ll let you know.

So here’s what I’ve learned since posting this yesterday. The meals go for 3 cents each (at a nickel, I guessed high), which of course does not begin to cover the actual cost of getting a meal to the people involved, but may pay for the rice or grain itself. Sponsors pay 3.5 cents a click. Each day you click, you rack up three cents for the cause and half a cent for John Breen, in Bloomington, Indiana, who started and runs hungersite.com. (And who doubtless has some expenses to pay out of that half cent.) His intentions, I suspect, based on his e-mail to me, are good.

In the short time the site has been up, it claims about 300,000 clicks, which at 3 cents each would work out to $9,000 for the UN World Food Program. And indeed, when I reached that outfit, I was told that $7,000 had thus far been received, and that they had been told another check was in the mail. The UNWFP seemed a bit perplexed by all this, and stressed to me it had no connection with hungersite.com, other than to have received three checks.

So far, also, one assumes John Breen is 300,000 haepennies ahead of the game, before expenses and any payment for his time and talent — about $1,500.

True, if a million children a day clicked, that would be $5,000 a day for John Breen (and $30,000 a day to help fight hunger). And if 10 million a day . . . well, but something tells me they won’t. And that if they did, John might well shave his cut of the action still further.

In addition to the 3 cents, the site does help raise awareness of world hunger. And it links to organizations to which people may wish to donate actual money.

In short, hungersite.com is a clever and, I like to think, well-intentioned idea, nicely executed; but — if your time is worth anything at all — unlikely to revoke the maxim that there is no free lunch.

 

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