• Rural Education Partners Enrichment Coordinator SaraBeth Post; Madison Moore, Lunch Buddy Mentor Elliott Keely, a core fellow at the Penland School of Crafts; and Payton Ferguson use the tips and instruction provided by Christina Cordova to make portraits of each other.
    Rural Education Partners Enrichment Coordinator SaraBeth Post; Madison Moore, Lunch Buddy Mentor Elliott Keely, a core fellow at the Penland School of Crafts; and Payton Ferguson use the tips and instruction provided by Christina Cordova to make portraits of each other.

What happens when people share a meal?

Sharing a meal seems like such a simple thing, but what happens when two people sit down together to share a meal is far from simple.  

“When people eat the same food, they feel closer and they are more trusting of another person,” said Kaitlin Woolley, co-author of a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and a Ph.D. candidate in behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.  

That’s what Harris Lunch Buddies is all about: trust. The program helps build a web of trusting relationships between adults and middle school students, relationships young people can depend on as they grow up and figure out who they are and who they want to be. 

A partnership between Rural Education Partners of Mitchell County, the Penland School of Crafts, Ingles, Mitchell County Schools and Harris Middle School brings together caring adults and middle school students to share lunch one-to-one, once a week. 

Though the mentoring relationships built through the program are planned for a single school year at a time, some of those relationships have lasted for years, through high school graduation and beyond.  

“Research shows students who trust the adults around them engage more readily in activities like peer collaboration, writing, discussion and problem solving,” explained Lori Gilcrist, director of Rural Education Partners. “Student lunch buddies learn to trust all the adults who participate, from the Harris staff who welcome lunch buddy mentors into the school to the mentors who prepare lunch and show up to share it each week, to all of us who keep the trains running on time. Trust grows, and learning grows right along with it.”  

For the end of the school year, mentors and students got a special treat, this time over shared supper. 

Cristina Cordova is a studio artist living in Mitchell County. Students hopped on a Mitchell County Schools bus when the last bell rang Tuesday, June 5, and climbed Conley Ridge Road to meet their mentors and Cordova at Penland. 

Cordova led them through an exploratory portrait project, a moment of reflection about the Lunch Buddies time together and a celebration of their appreciation of one another over a shared meal.

If interested in developing partnerships to benefit Mitchell County Schools students, email Gilcrist at lori.gilcrist@edpartnersmc.org or call 828-467-0970.

The MItchell News

Mailing Address: PO Box 339 
Spruce Pine, NC 28777 
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