Update: The Hunger Site was shut down in July 2001 along with the free mammogram donation site when their parent company, GreaterGood.com, went out of business (see Wired News for details). As of August 30, 2001, both sites have returned at their original URLs under new ownership.
The following was originally posted in 1999:
I received this message today and did not find it listed on your current hoaxes, etc. page. Have you heard of this? It can't possibly be legit...
Subject: FWD: The Hunger Site
This looks like it's for real and it's a really neat website! All you do is click a button and somewhere in the world some hungry person gets a meal to eat at no cost to you. If you look carefully at the map that every time someone dies of hunger - India blinks the most..... The food is paid for by corporate sponsors. All you do is go to the site and click.
Visit the site and pass the word.
You can't be blamed for being skeptical. On the surface there's not much to differentiate this warm, fuzzy offer from the dozens of "forward this to everyone you know" scams and hoaxes already out there. The message even seems to promise something for nothing, usually a classic sign.
on closer examination, however, this Web site turns out to be unique. The Hunger Site doesn't ask much of its visitors, but it does require them to blurbs from its sponsors after clicking the "Donation" button. In exchange for that exposure, the sponsors contribute funds which are channeled to reputable international programs to feed the hungry. All the available evidence indicates that the Hunger Site, founded by private citizen John Breen as a personal contribution to improving the plight of the world's poor, is completely legitimate and really works.
In the July 22, 1999 edition of the Internet Tourbus, Patrick Crispen confirmed the site's integrity through one of its sponsors:
I know this whole "click on a button, feed a hungry person" story sounds too good to be true, but I called one of the Hunger Site's sponsors and they confirmed that they were indeed donating 3 cents for everyone who clicks on the site's "Donate Free Food" button. The sponsors are donating the money to generate goodwill (and, truth be told, sponsoring the Hunger Site is also a brilliant marketing move -- once someone clicks on the "Donate Free Food" button, they are taken to a page that shows a small ad for the sponsor. The click-through rates for these ads must be phenomenal!)
In response to my own inquiries, Anthea Webb of the United Nations' World Food Program confirmed that the organization indeed receives donations via the Hunger Site and characterized the project as "innovative." Says Webb, "Cash donations equivalent to more than a million servings of food have been donated since the site opened in June 1999."
You can visit the Hunger Site itself to learn more: http://www.hungersite.com