Students’ steps feed world’s children: UNICEF program pairs fitness with food aid

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


ELM CITY — Fourth grader Trestin Ruffin is a global citizen through his work with UNICEF.

“It’s good because I get to be a hero and save other people’s lives with peanut butter,” Trestin said Wednesday.

Trestin is one of 19 students in Courtney Beckstead’s fourth grade class at Frederick Douglass Elementary School. The class is working to feed hungry children in 190 countries served by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

“I have gotten each students a UNICEF Power Band,” Beckstead said. “The Power Bands are similar to FitBits, so they track the students’ steps. It gets uploaded to UNICEF, and then UNICEF turns our steps into units similar to money. Then UNICEF sends peanut butter paste nutrition bars to malnourished countries for the children in those countries so that they get the nourishment they need to grow up healthy and strong.”

Children receive the bracelets at the beginning of each school day and wear them until they go home.

“I think she did a very good thing, and she needed to do this to help other people and to save lives,” Trestin said of his teacher.

The more steps the children take, the more bars UNICEF passes out to children in needy countries.

This is the third week of the project.

“On week two, we were able to provide 61 bars, so each week we are trying to get higher and higher and higher,” Beckstead said.

Each child averages between 6,000 and 8,000 steps each day.

“When they have PE, they have more steps,” Beckstead said.

The project was funded with $400 in donations to the class through DonorsChoose.org, which matched it with another $400.

“I really wanted to do a global awareness thing,” Beckstead said. “In my room, we have children from different countries. We have learned how to say hello in different languages.”

“We’re helping buy nutrient bars, and our steps count the nutrient bars,” said student Jenna Jones. “We are helping poor countries and we are earning Power Points.”

“The purpose of it is to help poor countries so the little kids can grow up to be healthy,” said student Asmaa Alkotaini. “If I help others, others will treat me good.”

“It is fun because we are saving lives,” said student Beckham Van Ashlaw.

Every morning after the morning meeting, the class will complete a UNICEF activity.

“I will have UNICEF pulled up on my computer,” Beckstead said. “They have all these exercises, and every time we complete an exercise as a class, we get a Power Up and once we get 10, they will send a whole shipment of bars to whatever country they need to ship it to.”

Principal Annette Faison said the class effort is “an awesome thing.”

“We are a dual language school, but in addition to that, we have really been working on making sure that we try to focus on students being global citizens,” Faison said. “Though our town, Elm City, is important to us, we are part of a bigger society, the United States, the world. We have really been trying to help students understand the world beyond us and that means being a global citizen. It is a small step in the right direction of helping our students understand that what we do here in our town of Elm City can help make a positive impact on others.”