NORWAY — A Snap-ed project partnership between community and students at Guy E. Rowe Elementary School, Café Club, returns this October. Café Club began three years ago and continued until schools were shut down in 2020 by the pandemic.

Now, Healthy Oxford Hills’ Snap-ed Community Nutrition Educator Holly Stuhr is working to resurrect the program, not just at Rowe but at other sites in the Oxford Hills school district.

“When we began Café Club back in 2019 we had 24 volunteers sign up, one for each of the school’s classes,” Stuhr told the Advertiser Democrat. “Last week, Principal Doug Kilmister reached out to me to get it going again.  We’re recruiting volunteers to come to the school once a week with one of the school’s classes to share lunch with students.”

Café Club helps reinforce Healthy Oxford Hills’ mission to help children learn healthy eating choices. Adults are asked to commit to one 20 to 30-minute lunch period a week to spend time talking with students and demonstrating that healthy eating habits are a good match for good conversation.

Guy E. Rowe Elementary School Principal Douglas Kilmister shares lunch with a group of students during Café Club. Submitted photo

As Stuhr explained back in October of 2019, “We believe that when kids see adults practicing good eating habits and making healthy choices, they are more likely to adopt similar behaviors themselves….role models are important, and often kids don’t have them when it comes to mealtimes.”

Stuhr said the benefits of the program to students are multi-tiered. They learn about someone new in their community; they are encouraged to try new healthy foods; they learn conversational skills; share school lunch in a calm and respectful environment; and they build relationships with healthy role models.

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There are already a dozen volunteers signed up to participate in Rowe’s Café Club, some return volunteers and some new to the program. Stuhr plans to coordinate Café Clubs with other Oxford Hills elementary schools.

One volunteer from 2019 who immediately raised his hand for the new Café Club at Rowe is Corey McEntyre, who works near the school at Norway Savings Bank. He was paired with a fifth grade class and quickly connected with his mentees.

“The kids nicknamed me Mr. Guy on my first day, before I could introduce myself,” McEntyre recalled. “One student says ‘who are you?’ and before I could answer another student replied ‘he’s that guy … doing the lunch thing.’  First student doesn’t skip a beat: ‘nice to meet you Mr. Guy.’ It stuck.

“Once you are in the cafeteria, they warm up to you and want to share stories of their day or tell you about their lives, pets, siblings, favorite foods and activities. You become a bit of a rock star as they always want to sit at your table and you have to be sure you include the shy, quiet kids in the conversation.”

McEntyre had no idea that COVID would keep him from joining them for lunch after they entered sixth grade or being able to see them graduate from Rowe.

“I’m not sure if I achieved the goals of the program in modeling healthy eating habits or encouraging equal time and kindness in conversation,” McEntyre told the Advertiser Democrat. “… But being accepted as one of the classmates and named Mr. Guy made for a fun year of Friday lunches. I missed their stories and questions and I’m looking forward to another year.”

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Stuhr by phone at 301-518-2922 or email her at [email protected] Café Club mentors should be eighteen or older. They will be asked to specify what days and times work best for their schedule, complete Oxford Hills School District’s volunteer form, provide reference and pass a background check. Volunteers may order school lunch ahead of time, or bring their own.

Training and orientation will be presented by Kilmister and Stuhr via Zoom Conferencing at a future date.


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