Camp Junk Food

Okay, so I know the title here is rather harsh. Let’s be honest—I totally expected my 8-year-old daughter to eat junk food while away at her very first overnight camp last week. Both of my children (and my husband for that matter) have what I call a “stomach of steel.” They can eat just about anything with no ill effects whatsoever, so I knew there would be no immediate consequences (like a food sensitivity) for her to contend with while away from home.

camp
My daughter at her first overnight camp!

But just because one may feel fine after immediately eating highly processed junk food doesn’t mean it isn’t doing any damage. After all, according to Michael Pollan’s research, four of the top ten chronic diseases that kill most of us – coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer – “can be traced directly to the industrialization of our food.”

Our Little Pre-Camp Chat

So even though my daughter has no specific food-induced medical conditions to worry about, we still had a friendly little chat before she embarked upon her very first week away from home without a parent or grandparent by her side. As I’ve shared before, I absolutely do NOT want my two young girls to ever “worry” about food (or anything for that matter). But that doesn’t mean I won’t educate them along the way when it’s appropriate (just as I will with many other important topics in life).

So I told her that there would be junk food at camp and eating it was totally fine, BUT my advice to her was to eat a lot of what she knew was good (i.e. for sure a whole food—straight from the earth) and just a little bit of what wasn’t.

And what did she do in my absence? She ate Froot Loops for breakfast daily, “with pineapple on the side!”. As I mentioned she is a completely typical 8-year-old so this is what happened when she was left to her own devices :) I guess I should be thankful for the serving of fruit? And truth be told, I was thankful for that and told her so. I was sure to reinforce the positive and not at all harp on any of the “negatives” of the week.

Some Good Decisions

And she actually did make some other really good choices on her own that made me very proud. She tried out the salad bar (like I had suggested before she left home), but how can I blame her for her boredom with it halfway through the week when it was basically the same drab salad bar night after night? This is my girl who honestly loves salads and vegetables even more than I do so I know she tried. She also followed some other advice I’d given her long ago about asking for a glass of water. I always tell both of my girls that when they are at friends’ houses or birthday parties they should always be gracious guests and accept what is served, but it is NEVER too much trouble to ask for a cup of water. I tell them if they are already eating birthday cake and candy and who knows what else – there is no reason to then wash it down with a sugary juice or soda – so just ask for water.

And to my surprise she actually remembered this advice at camp, and when dinner was followed with handouts of candy (Skittles to be exact) and a choice of soda or Powerade…what did she do (in addition to accepting the Skittles of course)? She politely asked for water! That’s my girl. Except she told me (in her own words) “they looked at me like I was crazy and didn’t have any water to offer.” So as a result she tried the Sprite (since she said it looked most like water). She apparently hated it and poured it out on the grass and finally settled on the bright blue Powerade (“which is actually good, mom!”). Is it just me or are sugary drinks really necessary to wash down the packs of candy? Just for the record, they apparently did give the campers water to drink earlier in the night at dinner because they weren’t allowed to have juice until they drank their water first (one of the more impressive food guidelines I heard about!), but unfortunately things seemed to go downhill in that department once the dinner hour was over.

Amazing Experience (with or without the junk food)

So, yes – her first camp experience (from a non-food perspective) was a once in a lifetime adventure. Her counselors were absolutely wonderful, she made some amazing new friends, and she LEARNED some pretty impressive new skills (water skiing, archery, sailing, horseback riding – and independence of course – just to name a few). BUT we did pay a pretty penny to be able to send her there for this experience (that she absolutely loved) so I feel I have the right to complain about the food. I absolutely knew it wasn’t going to be great, but as I am piecing things together through her various stories I admit the food situation sounds worse than I was expecting. Nachos with runny orange cheese anyone? Not to mention the kids who are more sensitive than she is and came home from camp not feeling well as a result of all that junk – including one of her cabin-mates in particular.

Junk Food at Camp #realfood - 100 Days of Real Food
Leaving the art building at camp

Time for Change

But, I am not one to just sit here and complain without trying to do something about it (hence this blog of mine). I was the same way about their elementary school, but felt similarly in the fact that it was only respectful to spend the first year observing before I try to butt my way in and start suggesting changes :) I am sure there are all sorts of constraints that force the camp to do things the way they do (i.e. limited time, limited budget, limited space, picky eaters, etc.) – but I admit I am hard-pressed to find a reason why each night would HAVE to end with skittles and soda. Can you think of one?

During this first overnight camp experience of ours I came into contact with two other camp moms (who are acquaintances) that both happen to feel the same way I do – so I can only imagine there must be more who feel the same? Maybe they haven’t spoken up yet or just don’t know where to start (or think they are alone)? So I don’t know what the first step toward change will be yet, but one thing I do know is that it will be something. I was recently inspired by the changes Carrie Vitt with Deliciously Organic made at her own daughters’ overnight camp. She knew they could provide better choices as well and offered to give them some guidance – which they gladly accepted! And the changes she made – super fresh and wholesome food at a minimal increase in cost – were very well received by both the campers and the staff. The outcome was super impressive if I do say so myself and drives home the fact that it can be done. And even though I am sure it won’t be an easy road I can’t just sit back and not try.

Have any of you been through something similar with overnight camp and have advice to share? I am all ears!

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189 thoughts on “Camp Junk Food”

  1. I don’t think most camps serve junk like that! My daughter attends a sleepway Girl Scout camp, and besides a smores night or two there is no junk. And obviously a Girl Scout camp would have a tight budget. Fruit loops aren’t cheap anyway! You should meet with the camp. I think many parents feel the way you do!

  2. My kids go to Hayownetha in northern Michigan. While, they do have typical camp food, all treats, especially treats sent by parents must be home made and are shared amongst the cabin. The last night of camp they had a banquet with a steak dinner and the counselors for each cabin provided desserts that night. My daughter’s cabin had their table drizzled with candy. One night out of two weeks od snacking and desserts, not bad.
    I was pleased that my daughter said she didn’t know what any of the cereals were there. Her cabin mates explained what Captain Crunch and Cocoa Puffs were! Success! (I also do not forbid foods since 90% of what they eat comes from our healthy kitchen, so if the have a bag of cheetos, I don’t sweat it either.)

  3. Maybe you could suggest they offer daily cooking class that could make homemade desserts that the campers could have every night instead of the candy and soda (using recipes you know and approve of). With enough groups of campers throughout the day, they could incorporate some allergy-sensitive recipes so treats could be safe for everyone.

  4. I was thrilled when I put “vegetarian” under the food allergy area on the registration form for my son’s camp that they actually called me to discuss this. Previously, he had basically just eaten cereal for breakfast, salad bar for lunch and dinner, plus whatever sides they might have without meat in it. I was given instructions to have him use “line 1” and give them his name and they would take care of him. He’s at camp this week, so I’m anxious to see how it worked out for him.

  5. I’m a Bible Camp person- I see all those Skittle laden little ones for nine weeks a summer! Some camps (like ours) limit the treats – one piece of candy per day per camper for the little ones, two for the slightly bigger kids… and no soda. For our youth group weekends (middle school or high school kids), we don’t have the soda machines or the camp store (candy) open in the evenings.

    One of the big issues facing camps is the limited resources. Many camps are non-profits- and most don’t even make enough money from camp fees to break even. It’s hard to provide nutritious food when you have no budget! And many of our camps do a great job of using what they’ve got.

  6. I think you’d love Gwynn Valley Camp in Brevard, NC. Working farm, delicious food, great childhood experience. My three kids attended for two weeks last summer. Good luck!

  7. Your post is so timely to my life! I just returned from Church Camp with my daughter and packed 3 days worth of fresh food for her and I. Although I go to serve as a counselor, I really also feel that the only way to ensure that my super sensitive stomached daughter survives is to be her meal sidekick supplying food that will save her gut. After the first day, I was feeling good about my mothering skills. I had slid her a fresh PBJ at dinner and a cutie to avert the processed corn dog and fries. Yet, at 3am I heard her sit up in her bunk, cough, and vomit. Ahhh for the love of food aversions! After cleaning her up and reassuring other counselors that this is the result of some food culprit. Me: “Honey, did you drink the red powder drink in your snack bag?” “Yes.” “Did you have fruit punch at dinner?” “Yes.” Darn you Red Dye 40!
    My suggestion is this: unapologetically pack food for your daughter and ask if they can store it in their camp kitchen. Make sure your daughter has access. Healthy snacks, fruit, drinks, whatever sets your heart at ease. Each kid rolls into camp with their own unique needs: medicines, need to wear a pull up, epi pen, homesick…and food sensitivities, so prepare whatever you wish to help your child be the best them they can be! Momma knows best :)

  8. Definitely try! I honestly believe that many people just don’t think about the food the put in their bodies or serve to others. They don’t know what they don’t know. But I also believe that a little information can go a long way.

    Perhaps point out to them that Skittles have the highest level of neurotoxic food dyes of any of the candies tested in this recent study (well, tied with M&Ms). Even getting them to switch to a less harmful candy would be a step in the right direction.

    http://www.rodalenews.com/food-dyes-processed-foods

    Good luck!

  9. I think that is wonderful
    you did that for the camp. But I am surprised did they chose not to make any changes. I live in Saint Louis Missouri and I am assuming you live in Missouri because the camp is here.I would love to help you make changes at camps if you would like to contact me.

  10. That is so great that your daughter had such an amazing time! Learning to work through different environments then the one you have at home is a great learning experience. With that said I would like to also say you have EVERY right to complain about the food at camp. I run a specialty diet menu for a local kids camp. We do everything we can to make our menu from scratch. This can be difficult but we believe that while the children are in our care it is our responsibility to feed them the best that we can. Being in charge of the specialty menu that means not only are we helping to prep and cook food for 400+ campers and staff; we are also prepping food for children who have celiacs disease, lactose intolerant, and have nut allergies just to name a few. Me and my partner in crime work all year testing new products and recipes to make sure that our specialty food tastes just as good, if not better, then the food being served on the regular line. The regular line also goes through the same testing of recipes all year to make sure the food tastes fresh and delicious. We also have a salad bar for kids to choose from. Each item on the salad bar is freshly prepared as well! It is not unusual to have a line out the door waiting to get to the salad bar. Each year at camp we also add something that we feel may be different to our campers on the salad bar. This year is was arugula. We had one of our volunteers dressed as “Miss. Arugula” and she gave a little 3 min talk to our campers at the first dinner about what arugula is and why it is so healthy for you! Camp isn’t just about learning how to make healthy active choices, it’s also a chance for kids to make healthy food choices!
    Side note: Love reading your blog :)

  11. As food services manager at a non-profit camp, several years ago we made the decision to only serve ice water (and fruit juice at breakfast) with every meal and snack time. We offer fresh veggies and whole grain crackers & cheese along with fresh popped popcorn for snacks. We use very little processed foods and offer a great salad bar with many options. This is challenging in several ways including higher food costs on an extremely limited budget as well as the poor eating habits of many kids coming to camp who won’t eat what we serve and resort to pb&j or just don’t eat at all. You do a great job encouraging healthy choices for your kids – I wish we could get more families going in this direction.

  12. I really can’t quite get my head around this. They were given skittles and soda after dinner. EVERY night. Are you kidding me??!! We live in Australia and, while there is plenty of bad food eating going on here, I can honestly not imagine this ever happening at a camp here. Maybe some marshmallows around the fire one night, but candy and soda every night? Never. That anyone thinks this is okay or normal is just mind blowing. Why have adults handed over caregiving responsibility to junk food manufacturers?

  13. Wow, it sounds like you handled the situation so remarkably well! I love the asking for water thing. Maybe that’s something that you can suggest to the camp? It would even help their bottom line to cut out sugary drinks. Just offer water and milk at meals.

    I feel for organizations feeding kids, though. The salad bar is probably unremarkable since most kids probably won’t actually eat salad. My sons are great eaters, but they are not keen on salad!

  14. I recommend sending your kids to camp with a water bottle, just like at school. My sons do that and just fill up from the water fountain or sink whenever needed. And while I know gatorade is not ideal, it’s better than plain water when true dehydration is an issue. Both of my children struggle with migraines and I find that some gatorade or other electrolyte drink works better than plain water in the heat to ward off the headache and nausea.

    I totally agree about the soda, candy, and sugar-laden cereal choices. No need for those.

  15. I really wish they would just offer water all across the board at camps, schools and child events…that way there is no questions asked! The kids get well hydrated, it’s healthy and every child can drink it. At my child’s preschool, every kids gets a chance to bring snack…they specifically say just bring water, no juice! And there is never a child questioning it, the kids really don’t mind it and parents are happy!

  16. I just love your parenting style. I think it’s great that you don’t harp on your kids to give them complex but have important conversations! I don’t have kids yet, but hope I can steal some tips from you when I do! And hopefully by then, there will be better camp food choices!

  17. As a resource for you: Camp Augusta in California is wonderful and serves organic, non-processed food. Twice during the week a homemade ice cream food truck comes to provide a sweet treat. They might have some good advice/suggestions of how to make real food work as part of the camp experience…

  18. Someone should conduct a research study on the correlation of behavioral issues and sugar and food coloring consumption at camp. I would bet that they would see a dramatic decrease in kids needing disciplinary action. I know my daughter on red food dye is a completely different (uncontrollable) child. This research may cause them to listen!

      1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

        Hi again. We serve mostly water. I use sparkling water with a splash of 100% juice or slices of fresh fruit to spice things up. Lisa’s girls also drink whole milk. Mine are almond milk fans. :) ~Amy

  19. I was both a camper and a camp counsellor for many years in NZ. The camp back then served only water or, as a very special treat, watered down bug juice. There were lots of potatoes and carrots (I know because campers had to peel them!) as well as fresh and canned fruit and the pantries were stocked with only the basics as pretty much everything was made from scratch. Canteen was only 2x a week although access was unlimited and. Yes, we did used to binge on the junk. But we were so active all day everyday that it didn’t seem to be a problem. I suppose it has changed in 20 odd years but I hope not too much as I’m thinking of sending my daughter to camp when we go back to NZ next year (we live in the UK now)

  20. Just came across this post while looking for this (wonderful wonderful) blog. I am from Europe (Austria) and worked at a summer camp in the US during the summer of 2012. While I have a lot of stories to tell about that summer, one of the most horrible things I remember was the food! I worked in the kitchen (as a non-native speaker of English they wouldn’t let me be a counselor, even despite the fact that I work as an English teacher and have worked as a counselor for Arts&Crafts and Low Ropes for years – again… lots of stories, sorry to ramble!). Working in the kitchen did not include any type of food prep, because EVERYTHING came from a package! I’m not even kidding, even the salad was pre-cut and came in a plastic bag that had another plastic bag inside it with cut carrots and red cabbage. I absolutely hated the Mac&Cheese, which had a very orangy looking sauce on it that tasted like melted fatty plastic. Luckily there was always (white) bread and peanut butter around to have instead.

    The worst of it, though, was that I was in charge of handing out the night time snack for the kids. All they had and ordered were processed sweets. I was happy for the nights I had crackers to give them. The drinks were all sugary stuff, but at least there was water from taps nearby. Still, I a) don’t think these kids needed any snack 2 hours after dinner and b) don’t believe that sugary snacks are a good way to end a day when you have to get these kids to bed right after!

    As what the parents paid for 3 weeks of this camp was an amount of money I’d not earn in 5 months, I still can’t understand why they would allow such bad quality of food to be fed to their kids. The summer camps I work at here are WAY cheaper, but the food is always prepared fresh from fresh ingredients (with the odd sausage & fries day inbetween). Afternoon snacks were usually fruit and water, cold tea or juice, and for meal times only water (though the kids were allowed to bring a few snacks to camp and those were usually sweets, but kids are kids :) We did not allow energy drinks and caffeinated drinks for the smaller ones). I’m not saying that it’s always a perfectly balanced meal they get here, but I would say that making things from scratch is the way to go. Oh, and not to mention the kitchen would prepare night-time snacks for the counselors which always included fruit, different types of cheese, some veggies and super nice bread rolls :D

    1. *through this blog (not for)

      Oh, I forgot, and this baffles me still to this day: At the US-camp we made HUGE batches of these drinks that were a powdered mixture. It came in different colors like pink and purple and even blue! The drinks would then stain the plastic tables so we had to bleach them from time to time. Also the ice pops stained the tables. I’m pretty sure that this type of food coloring served every day is not healthy. Oh, also, we served food in styrofoam bowls or on styrofoam plates, accompanied by styrofoam cup, and the “silverware” (really, shouldn’t it be metal if it says silver in the name?) was plastic. Serving anything in styrofoam and drinking from it (especially when the food items are hot) just doesn’t seem like a smart idea to me. Again – if I’d be paying this much for camp, I would demand a change.

      I hope your daughter will have lots more camp adventures! Camp is a wonderful time! She seems like a very smart kid to try to make the right choices!

  21. Morning,

    I just read this post and laughed. As a Camp Professional for 20 years, I have seen this! The goey mac & cheese with cheese sauce that you can’t pronounce ingredients and other “fun” foods. Having said this, most camps (at least in Canada) have made huge changes in their menus, working with local dieticians and food producers to create menus with very healthy choices. At the camps I Directed, we got rid of boughten tuck (junk food time), and replaced it with homemade versions of things like yogurt parfaits, ice cream sandwiches, fruit pops – using real fruit & 100% juice. We also had to adapt to many new food allergies: nuts, soy, dairy, wheat….
    As a Director, I always encouraged parents to ask about the menu which we made readily available so that they could see it. As for water – it was always available and we never served soda. When you spend the big bucks, the food provided for your children should be at least 95% healthy. For the next camp experience, ask in advance. Good food (as you know), doesnt mean junk!
    PS: love this site & the recipies.
    Thank you!

  22. Wow…having been the ast. director at a summer camp for 4 years I can tell you we would never feed our kids like this! Since we came in 4 years ago we have been working to change the kitchen and offer more healthy choices to the girls (girl scout camp!).

    Every meal has water on the tables and you have to have a glass before having milk or bug juice (lunch only). We have a salad bar and while its expensive for us to offer variety we do try to make sure its different every few days and there is always homemade soup out. Dessert is inly served at dinner (used to be lunch to!), all grains are whole wheat, and there is no meat served on mondays (I take issue with this one lol), and fruit is left out all day for the taking. Candy is a real treat and there must be a really good reason for it. Soda has no place at camp and we only offer gatorade on the hottest days to trick them into drinking a little more.

    Camp isn’t always going to be healthy, we love to cookout desserts at night and have gooey treats. However, if you find the right camp the food doesn’t need to be a complete disaster!

  23. Lisa,
    So glad I came upon your blog post! I have been a camp director for 31 years now and we have made a dramatic shift in our food service at our overnight camp. Nothing like having your own family to make it clearer to yourself about what is good for kids. Keep talking to your camp, this is the trend and the desire of people and if enough people make their voices heard, the camp will change. We changed before the voices came, ha, ha. We recently hosted a food service workshops for camps through our American Camp Association Indiana section here at our camp. We even gave a presentation just on the things we had changed and explained to attendees how for many food items it cost the same to change to a less processed or no processed food item than to buy the processed one from the big food companies. More money goes into the pockets of the local people working in your kitchen and less gets sent to the big box food company some 500 miles away.
    I’d be happy to share with you all of the changes we have made in our camp’s food service department. http://www.campranchoframasa.org

  24. I attended a wonderful camp in NC that grew its own fruits and veggies, had campers work the farm, and served the same foods they grew at meals. We were encouraged to at least try small portions of foods we didn’t like or weren’t familiar with, and sodas and candy were not present at all (there’s no snack stand, but we did get to have smores on our overnights!). Based on their website and the literature I still receive from them, this is still their practice. It was a wonderful experience, great food, and I don’t think anyone really minded. Of course, we all looked forward to those smores!

  25. It is always interesting to me to hear about other camp experiences. When I was younger I went to several day camps so I didn’t experience many of the food issues that parents/children run across. But for the past six years I have worked at an arts overnight camp. And at my camp we most certainly don’t serve soda or other unhealthy drinks at dinner… we don’t offer dessert often and when we do it is a surprise offered after the full meal is over.

    We offer vegetarian diets and other dietary options. Campers can buy candy/soda every other day, and only “two wet, two dry” limit.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that not all camps offer poor food options. If you hope to make a change, go for it! Healthy food at overnight camp is not unreachable.

  26. My husband is the executive director of a summer camp in NC which when founded in the 1940s was built on the idea that kids “don’t get dessert twice a day” at home, so we should offer this at camp. We have personally been involved for 10 years and I have felt passionate about changing the food culture. We have a fabulous food director and kitchen staff, but it is really hard to eat healthy while feeding hundreds of people three times a day. Especially on a tight budget and the need for the kids to eat since they are so active. I would recommend starting with manageable changes. For me, this was serving only water at lunch, offer as much fresh fruit as able, veggies at lunch and dinner. The food director also tries to make from scratch as much as possible: pizza dough, bread, spaghetti sauce (which he blends kale and bell peppers into..makes my heart rejoice), muffins, BBQ. I feel like this has helped tremendously cutting some of the processed food (but there is still a lot). And the fact is kids don’t eat as healthy when parents are not involved. I see it first hand all summer. Another change we made was in our snack shop. This past summer, we kept all the candy bars, etc, but added cliff bars, Z bars, dried apples, nuts, kashi bars, Vitamin water (I got all this from Costco since our distributor did not carry them) and changed the size of all soft drinks and gatoraide to 8 oz. For the morning snack, campers could only choose from the “healthy” options.
    It is an uphill battle but I do believe small changes matter and having more options help…and kids are only eating this bad for one session the entire summer (unless you are my family and we are there for 12 weeks), which is why they had 145 green smoothies from june-august.

    1. Which camp do you run? Sounds like you are doing better with the food than most camps! I would like to have my kids look at attending your camp!

  27. Having worked at a summer camp for three years, I can say there is one good reason to give children candy at camp. That being said, the camp I worked at served (relatively) healthful food. Children at camp expend tons more energy than at home. They would eat the camp kitchen clean, and we fed them well! The extra sugar snacks were given just for the fun of it, but they also served to make up for the extra calories burned at camp. With out them, I think that a good number of the kids would have burnt out early! One cannot consume enough salad and whole grains to maintain the energy of active campers– just don’t work! (I tried it at summer camp as a teen, not recommended to anyone!)

    1. Are you kidding me?? The kind of energy that candy and processed sugary junk food gives you is not good energy. It’s proven that those foods leave children unable to focus, hyperactive, headaches, nausea, and inevitably a big sugar crash with very low energy! Your last sentence made no sense at all to me. You can absolutely eat enough whole foods to maintain energy for active campers, that is exactly how to maintain energy! Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, proteins, etc. Not junk food. I cant believe I was the first to comment on this post.

      1. Sarah, you are so right in pointing out the result of eating pure carbs, that is, sugar, being a “sugar crash.” I guess I made it sound as if what we did was Ideal. Eating sugar does give you a lot of energy. However, it does not cause hyperactivity and inattention (see this article http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=52516) unless you get a sugar crash, then your low blood sugar can cause some of the aforesaid problems unless you eat again. If you eat a balance of carbs and fats and proteins, you will be able to maintain blood sugar levels for much longer. You will however still get a “sugar crash” if you don’t eat after the carbs and proteins and fats are all burnt up. Eating candy is not something I would recommend unless other options were unavailable. I believe something much more nutritious would be a better option, such as granola bars and a glass of milk or a good trail mix, however for us counselors, we did not have that option, we had candy. If we had given the children a “healthy” snack of carrot, celery, and zucchini sticks with hummus dip (not that we had any), they would have had to consume gargantuan amounts in order to get enough energy to keep them from passing out before dinner, and would have ended up with stomach aches before they achieved the needed caloric intake. Please reread my last sentence, because I know that some who have relatively low metabolic rates are able to maintain on not much other than salad and bread, but highly active teens simply do not have the stomach capacity to hold the volume of whole grains and vegetables that have enough calories to keep them going five hours. Do the math, a young teen, NOT ACTIVE, would have to eat about eight slices of wheat bread in addition to that whole salad with low fat dressing, at every meal just to keep from losing weight and slowing their metabolism (rough estimate). Candy and junk are not anywhere close to being good nutritious food, but where extra calorie boosts are needed, they can be helpful in a pinch.

  28. Loved this post. I think breakfast is the most challenging meal at camp. Anytime I have been to camp, our breakfasts consisted of a wide array of sugary cereals, yogurt, apples, bananas, and juice. It’s easy and cheap.

  29. This reminded me of my Kinder’s first week of school. He came home on the second day and told me that he had chocolate milk. I nearly had a heart attack! Because, why on God’s green earth should a 5 year old boy have access to chocolate milk at lunch time?!?!? I freaked out a little, which is silly, but I have worked SO HARD to prepare and plan healthy, appetizing lunches and it bummed me out that they were even SERVING chocolate milk. Didn’t they watch Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution?? That was a few years ago!!! Well, obviously, I needed a little time to calm down. :)

    After they got their routine down, they sorted things out and had only the kids getting school lunches take a milk. While this is still a concern I will talk to the admin about (now that I’ve calmed down), at least, for now, my son is not drinking it.

    BTW, when he came home and told us we were like, “ok, one time every week, you can have chocolate milk, but the other days, we would like you to drink white milk.” And we explained all the reasons why. Then the next day he came home and said “I drank chocolate milk. I forgot about drinking the white milk” LOL. Poor little 5 year old. How is he supposed to resist that kind of stuff!! More reason to share with the admin the reasons why flavored milk should not be in the school.

    Thanks for your camp post!! It prepared me for what lies ahead…LOL

  30. I guess I am surprised. Camp is supposed to be about eating healthier with of course a brownie or s’mores in there somewhere. I remember a camp I went to and we had real food. Dang of course that was almost 32 years ago. But wow that much junk at camp?! Wow!

  31. I just asked my daughter what they had a camp for her and her sister. while i imagine it’s not made with whole grains, at my daughters camp they had pancakes, french toast, eggs, fruit.. plus cereals like cheerios, rice crispies, etc. They have sandwiches and such at lunch… snacks/dessert are sometimes offered and include cookies, cake, brownies, etc, and chocolate pudding the last day. No candy is allowed unless you bring it to camp with you, and all food much be held by the cabin counselors in a secure area, and only to be gotten with permission (during their “quiet” time of day in the afternoon). There is no soda/sport drinks at all. Drinks suring meals is mostly water. there is sometimes juice at breakfast, but only one pitcher for each table. milk needs to be requested, but is available. Vegetarian options are also available by request (either ahead of time coming to camp, or during a meal).

    not perfect – but for a camp, i’m happy with it, and sounds a lot less junky then what your daughter experienced!

  32. Your daughter did great making the choices she made! I am a little surprised that they didn’t offer water too and handed out candy after the meal…don’t they realize sugar makes kids crazy? lol

  33. I would look at this as a cost issue. The camp that my child attends serves over 3,500 kids a summer there is NO WAY they would hand out expensive Powerade and Skittles or any prepackaged food. Water is available at all times and campers are required to bring a reusable water bottle. Meals are served family style and each table gets one pitcher of tea or lemonade and that’s it. After that everyone gets water. I imagine the cost savings are huge compared to what you described.
    My daughter said that sometimes there are store bought brownies for dessert. If you are lucky the Dessert Divas will prepare homemade desserts the week you attend! These are older ladies that donate time and loving desserts to the camp. You could be a kitchen/dessert diva!
    Furthermore, I would like to dispel the MYTH that eating whole food is more expensive than processed. I’ll use pizza as an example. With a coupon I found 10-12 inch pizza for $3 each plus tax. Per 1/4 pizza 350 calories, 15 grams of fat and sodium off the charts! Homemade – $.71 for dough from the bakery if I’m lazy. $2 for mozzarella ball and $.50 for 1/2 jar of black olives. Other toppings we get from the garden. About $.10 for homemade sauce. So, $4 for 2, 16 inch pizzas. Plenty of leftovers, much much more nutritious and cheaper!

  34. My Husband and I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago and it has inspired us to make a change in our household. We’ve started meal plans, gotten fresh groceries, and I can safely say that about 90% of the food we eat in our home is not processed. However, feeding a family of 3 (and our son is only 1) on an almost all natural diet is extremely expensive. This isn’t even including buying organic (i couldn’t even imagine what we would be spending if we bought all organic). So I really can’t imagine what the cost would be to serve a camp of hundreds of kids all natural/organic. Unfortunately, it comes down to economics – the higher cost in food would drive up the price in admission, and in turn, a large chunk of parents wouldn’t be able to afford to send their kids, thus driving up the cost for the remaining kids. If you can create a very real, cost effective plan for providing better food for the campers, then i say go for it. definitely present that information to the camp. I’d like to think that the camp would be willing to listen to a reasonable, well-researched request. Otherwise, it may be a good idea to send your daughter(s) with snacks that they can grab from their bag as an alternative to skittles and soda. You also may need to pack water (which, I agree, it’s ridiculous to not have water available to the kids). Anyway, i really appreciate what you are doing and it’s definitely making a change in my world. Thank you for keeping things civil and providing alternatives instead of just bashing companies and telling us why something is bad.

    1. Amanda, I know exactly how you feel! When I first considered changing up our diet, I knew it would be expensive. Over time though, I found that it really helped to shop at the right stores. I shop at Sprouts now and save SO much money. If I were to buy the same items at any other grocery store, I’d be spending at least twice as much. So you might spend some times looking at your local ads and figuring out which stores have the cheapest produce. You might be surprised! I recently switched to almost all organic produce and I now spend about the same amount weekly as I was spending on all my processed junk a few years ago. (Before I switched to organic I was spending MUCH less)

  35. It saddens me the way kids are fed in this country. I’m glad there are some people/organizations trying to do something about it, but it just seems to few and too little. My son’s elementary public school serves the most unhealthy food! I have no idea how they can say they have a ‘nutrition’ program! Most days I pack him a lunch, but even then, he’s constantly offered “snack sales” (of candy and chip), cupcakes and other treats from birthdays in the classroom, trading from his friends (it’s amazing how many parents send their kids junk!). I’m only self-educated in the ways of eating healthy and have a lot to learn, so it doesn’t feel like I should be the one contacting the schools to try and make the changes. But it seems that the professionals aren’t doing their jobs, maybe I SHOULD speak up…. and not take the easy way out just keep sending my kid a packed lunch (gulp).

  36. That was quite interesting reading your blog and no doubt some people have stomach like steel but I am not in those. Whenever I eat junk food my stomach starts misbehaving with me. Well I like the advice you gave to your childrens of asking a cup of water being someone’s guest. We should focus everytime we have food, that what we are eating and how much we are eating.

  37. I totally agree with what you’re saying. I just spent the weekend with my daughter’s Brownie troop on a campout. I just wanted you to know that I brought your granola recipe to have with fruit and yogurt for breakfast. When we were doing the planning the other leader didn’t understand what was wrong with the sugar cereal and pancake breakfast plan. We gave the girls the healthier option and several took it. Thanks!

  38. My husband and I live and work at a camp that serves this same kind of menu. Our family eats only real food so we are not able to eat in the cafeteria. The problem we are seeing at our camp is that the food service is out-sourced to a company who gets all of their supplies from another company (in this case Sysco). The ingredients they receive are almost all highly processed to begin with. The main drive is to keep cost down and convenience. The kitchen staff has to make 3 meals a day for hundreds of kids all summer long. Also, the kitchen staff thinks that if they make “healthy” meals then the kids will not eat them. The food ends up in the garbage because the kids will not make healthy choices when their parents are not around. I think this is true to some degree, but the kitchen staff also doesn’t really know what “real” food it. They need to be educated like everyone else. Kids will eat it if they are hungry and not filled with junk all day. We have lots of thoughts on this idea. If parents are concerned enough about what their kids are eating, would they choose a different camp that places more emphasis on healthy foods? Excellent camp programming is important, but also the health of our children should be important to camps as well.

  39. I think it’s so great what you do! I am continually frustrated with food choices when my daughter is away from home, and though we don’t do as well as you do on a daily basis, my daughter does NOT get soda and certainly doesn’t end every evening with candy! I’m so amazed sometimes what some people will consider a “meal” (the nachos). And no water to offer? WHAT??? Sadness. Keep up the good work and thanks for inspiring the rest of us!

  40. Good for you! There is a catering company in Toronto that delivers to schools and daycares called Real Food for Real Kids (RFRK)and they are awesome! It`s all organic, real food, and the kids at our previous Montessori school (we`re in the public system since grade 1) really did eat it all! Check them out at http://www.rfrk.com/ and even if they don`t have this kind of thing near you, you can get ideas from them — maybe even start your own kids catering co.!

  41. what happened to the camps that had campers having kitchen duty on a rotation basis and it was part of the skills they were taught?? I guess too many parents that did not want their little darlings having to do what was considered “work”. Spreading it around made it so no one was being any sort of worker bee in the camp but it did cut down on the whole thing being an expensively run camp. maybe it was only church and 4H camps that felt the need to continue to teach the fundamentals of preparing healthy clean eating meals. ???

  42. Summer camps would NEVER offer that kind of junk food to kids in Europe. It is sad that the vast majority of people in the US is so uneducated about food :-(

  43. Amazing and you should be very proud of that kid of yours!!

    I don’t have kids and am half way through my 10 day challenge (over half). So I’m a newbie!!! I hope to have kids one day soon.

    But something I showed people is how cheap it really is. but the hard part is it takes time to make.

    For the camp why not teach them the ways of the land and have everyone pitch in and do something all the campers would love that activity and eat healthy one day of the camp~

    just a thought. I wish you well in the future.

  44. I’m going through the same type of thing at my house as my daughter is leaving for college soon. We’ve perused the dorm menu and I’ve guided her the best I can, but just the thought of her eating that crap for 9 months makes my stomach turn!!

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