Food at Overnight Camp
Lots of parents struggle with making the jump from day to overnight camp, and wonder if their child is ready to spend a week away from home. When parents express specific concern about what is holding them back from being ready, one of the most common barriers that they identify is food. Whether they have a picky child, a vegetarian or a child with an allergy, it seems to be something that makes parents nervous. So, let me tell you a bit more about our meal plan for overnight camp…
Camp Talooli’s Meal Philosophy
The first thing you should know is that we do not want food to be a barrier or a point of contention at Camp. Our primary goal is to prepare healthy, hearty, and child-friendly meals that will ensure campers are getting proper nutrition while at Camp. While we will not force any child to eat, we do encourage campers to choose something at every meal to ensure that they are able to fuel themselves during our busy camp day. We do our best to find options that will work for all kids.
We also see meal time as a fantastic opportunity for individual camper groups to bond and talk about their day. During breakfast and dinner, our groups sit at tables together and meals are served family-style. This also provides a space for positive peer pressure to try new foods - "if my friends are eating, maybe I should, too." One of the most common pieces of positive feedback we hear from parents after their child attended overnight camp is that their kid came back home much more willing to try new food.
We serve a different hot breakfast each day. On Mondays, “Breakfast Bob” makes pancakes and sausage. On other mornings we may serve scrambled eggs, egg sandwiches, French toast, breakfast pizza, etc. Additionally, we always have cereal and yogurt as a choice. Common cereals that we have available are Lucky Charms, Cap’N Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, Oatmeal, etc.
Campers eat lunch picnic-style outside, so we like to keep lunch simple. For lunch, campers get a choice of sandwich, fruit, and chips. Plain peanut butter and PBJ are always a choice, but we rotate the additional sandwich choices each day. Sandwich choices include: turkey, ham, tuna, egg salad, bologna, grilled cheese, etc. Campers order the sandwich that they prefer at breakfast and can select the food they want when they come through the lunch line.
On Thursday, lunch is slightly different. Starting in the morning, we celebrate “Big Thursday” with the Mega-Dog parade and then roast the Mega-Dogs over the fire until lunch. Mega Dog is a 10-lb hot dog that we order special and serve for lunch on Thursdays. It is part of our Camp Talooli tradition that both day and overnight campers can try. We will also have PB and PBJ as a choice.
We try to keep dinner choices simple. Typical dinners include grilled chicken with a potato and vegetable, pasta with bread and vegetable, taco salad, etc. We will also often make different optional items available on our salad bar (e.g. salad, fruit salad, baby carrots, cottage cheese). If a dinner just doesn’t work for someone, we can always offer a sandwich.
On Thursday, our overnight campers cook out at their campsites. During the day, campers make their own “tinfoil dinner,” which includes a burger, potatoes, carrots, and onions.
We also offer a different evening snack each day. These may include: ice cream sandwich, cookie, rice krispies treat, brownie, ice cream, pudding, etc. At this time, overnight campers can also purchase items from our Candy Store. In addition to the provided snack, campers can select up to two items from the Candy Store. Parents can leave money on their account during drop-off, up to $6. Candy choices often include chocolate bars, skittles, cookies, slushies, Twizzlers, chips, etc.
About Food Allergies and Restrictions
When you complete the online Health History, one of the questions that you answer is about any known allergies. We take all camper allergies seriously; our Camp Nurse works closely with counselors and our kitchen staff to make sure they are aware of all allergies and that campers are safe. Our kitchen staff makes sure to read all the ingredients on products and informs both the camper and their counselor of any food that may not be safe. Our Camp Nurse reviews health documentation prior to the start of the camp week and will often reach out to families with questions and to clarify information. She will also review this information with parents and the camper during check-in on Sunday night.
For other dietary concerns, like lactose intolerance, some campers choose to bring their preferred substitute (e.g. almond milk, soy milk) to be kept in our refrigerators. For more complicated restrictions, like a gluten-free diet or Celiac Disease, we will work with families ahead of time to review the menu, discuss cross-contamination procedures, and make a plan. This often includes families bringing preferred gluten free items like bread, pasta, and snacks.
Vegetarians and Vegans
Camp Talooli will always have a vegetarian option available. For example, we will often make Quorn Chik’N Cutlets on grilled chicken night, vegetarian taco meat with veggie crumbles, and veggie burgers. It can be difficult for us to accommodate a vegan diet at Camp, as many vegetarian products are not vegan. In this case, it is helpful to talk to families about our planned menu ahead of time and for them to bring some supplemental products.