Rice Bowls’ ‘Hunger Crunch’ game wins Facebook’s first Social Good App of the Year award

Rice Bowls, a non-profit based in South Carolina, has won Facebook’s first Social Good App of the Year for the gaming mobile app Hunger Crunch, which has raised money to feed over 1,700 children in 54 orphanages around the globe.

The Social Good App of the Year is one of three categories in the new FbStart Apps of the Year awards program. FbStart, a program designed to help startup mobile developers succeed, was launched last year, and 2015 marks the inaugural year of an awards program recognizing the most successful apps among the FbStart members. Other award categories include the FbStart App of the Year and Regional Apps of the Year.

Award winners were honored at the annual F8 Facebook Developer Conference in San Francisco in late March.

In Hunger Crunch, a creature named Beasty aims to “stomp, smash, and crunch” Hunger depicted as a band of food-stealing villains. Players also have chances to “reclaim stolen food and discover hidden collectibles.”  The game is free, but 100 percent of income from in-game purchases is used to help feed orphaned kids worldwide.

The app itself was funded completely by a grant, and none of Rice Bowls’ budget went towards its development, Dodd Caldwell, the 12-year volunteer president of the organization, told the Upstate Business Journal.

The nonprofit has been manufacturing, distributing, and recollecting plastic “rice bowl” coin banks as a fundraising tool since the 1980s. The rice bowl banks can still be ordered from Rice Bowls’ website, but Caldwell said that the organization was looking for another way to engage kids and get them involved in fundraising.

“We looked at where kids were going to be more and more into the future, and for better or for worse, that’s in front of screens,” he said.

Caldwell enlisted the help of four people during the last two years to build the Hunger Crunch app.

Bryan Martin, the developer of the iOS and now Android mobile application, said: “We thought, ‘Let’s do something that inspires and just introduces kids to this concept of the world being round and that there are people out there on the other side of it in need, and make kids feel empowered to do something about it.’”

“We know our game is not going to educate kids fully, but … we want to be the American Greetings card that introduces kids to the idea that there’s something they can do.”

Caldwell admits that kids are likely using their parents’ money to make in-app purchases but the fact that the funds go to charity has contributed to the app’s success.

“That’s definitely part of the hook. It’s one thing to say I can buy this in-app purchase in a game that I’m playing, and another thing to say all the money I’m using is going towards feeding orphaned kids,” he said.

Rice Bowls is a non-profit organization that donates money for food to orphanages in Africa, Central America, India and the Philippines.