Read Between The Labels

Finally, consider the logistics of such a program. There is an extra cost to many diets with more-expensive substitutes (whether gluten-free bread and soy milk or soynut butter and tofu are used). Some camps may choose to charge extra for a gluten-free and/or dairy-free diet, but charge nothing for vegetarians. Serving procedures in the dining hall may need to be changed since the right meals must be served to the right campers. Does your camp have a philosophy regarding picky eaters? Has a parent asked you to feed her child peanut-butter sandwiches every day, and does that conflict with your belief that all campers sample some homegrown vegetables? How do you manage a campfire marshmallow roast for a child who can’t have sugar?

Team-Of-Five Approach

So how does a camp put this decision into practice? Accommodating a variety of diets is not just the job of the kitchen manager. A “team-of-five” approach to developing a camp’s policies will allow for a number of viewpoints and increase communication (and compliance) across departments. Ideally, the camp director, kitchen manager, nurse, program director, and camp registrar will collaborate in developing the CampFAMP (Food Accommodation Management Plan). For example, if the camp registrar has helped develop the operational plan, he or she will be able to better answer parent questions, proofread marketing materials, and “flag” concerns on camper applications during screening. Program staff with a working knowledge of allergies and other food concerns will better understand their role in planning food for trips, communicating with the kitchen, and preventing cross-contact of food items. Certainly the medical staff and camp director will also be involved in creating and implementing the plan.

Some may have to develop a plan without the five voices. However, thinking through the plan from five viewpoints is possible. Perhaps a short-term volunteer could “put on the glasses” of the program staff member. Parents of campers with allergies would probably be more than happy to review a plan with a team member, and could provide valuable customer-service insight. Those who only have nurses during camp may be able to solicit help from a local clinic.

Follow Through

Once a system is in place, a staff-training plan must be developed to reach counselors, trip leaders, van drivers, and others who may be providing food to campers. Be sure that a system is translated into written policies so it can be carried out the same way every year. And it is best if there is a “nutrition champion” (often the kitchen manager or the nurse) on-campus who is passionate about keeping everyone informed.

Once you have agreed to meet a special dietary request, it is crucial to keep it fun, and never make a camper feel different or like he or

Ideally, the camp director, kitchen manager, nurse, program director, and camp registrar will collaborate in developing the Camp FAMP (Food Accommodation Management Plan).

Ideally, the camp director, kitchen manager, nurse, program director, and camp registrar will collaborate in developing the Camp FAMP (Food Accommodation Management Plan).

she is a burden to staff members. Search the internet for delicious substitutes that are similar to camp dishes. Serve trays with a flourish. Counselors should be low-key about special needs, and celebrate when the picky eater likes a new food. The kitchen manager is a key to this; if he or she sets a tone in the kitchen of great customer service, the rest of the staff will generally follow suit.

Never over-promise about meeting special dietary needs or preferences. Make sure the entire team is ready and able to completely meet the need before agreeing to it. But once you have shown this high level of customer service, your reputation is likely to grow as a welcoming camp for many kids who otherwise could not attend.

References

Food Allergy Initiative  www.Faiusa.org

Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network   www.foodallergy.org

With downloads, including “How To Read A Label”

Genie Gunn is an ACA SE Standards Co-Chair, former camp director, and culinarian. Reach her at geniegunn@gmail.com.

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