This coming weekend our brother-sister summer camp in New Hampshire is thrilled to be participating in the Northeast Food Allergy Product & Resource Expo. The largest gathering of food allergy products and services in all of New England, we are proud to be the only camp invited to participate!
As I mentioned in yesterday's blog on Tuesday I was at a really powerful conference about food allergies and food service. There were lectures by a number of experts, including food producers, safety consultants, and even a representative from the Food and Drug Administration.
Our summer camp in NH is known for many things, and thankfully, one of them is for being a safe summer home for campers with food allergies and sensitivities. For more than 15 years we have proudly been peanut free and tree nut free, and have served safe meals for children who need gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free or even garlic free meals.
It's really important to see your camp friends throughout the year. There's just something about the friendships that you form at summer camp, and it feels so good to spend time with your camp friends during the fall and winter months! It not only reminds you of how much fun you have together each summer, but how much you all love and care for one another.
It's a question children and parents ask me all the time: so what's the first day like at Kenwood and Evergreen? Implicit in the question is the concern how do I know that my child will be ok in this new community? Will she make new friends? Will he be glad that he signed up for this adventure? Well, let me share with what our opening day was like.
One of the questions I am frequently asked is how do you make your camp safe for kids with food allergies? While most of our community members have no known allergies or intolerances, about 10% of our campers and counselors do, and they range from needing to eat peanut and tree nut free to having to avoid gluten, mustard, dairy, egg, soy and even citrus. So it's certainly a fair question, and we do a great deal to serve safe food!
Over the last couple of years we have really ratcheted up the food that we serve at our overnight camp in NH. Three years ago we doubled number of chefs working in our dining hall, and radically overhauled our menu. As much as possible, we now serve meals cooked from scratch, with fruits, vegetables and even meats from farms located throughout New England.
I love that our overnight camp is such a safe place for gluten free eaters (and peanut, tree nut, dairy, egg and even mustard free eaters, too!), and has been so more than a dozen years now. When we started accommodating our friends with special dietary needs we really were one of the only places out there doing it. Certainly, we were one of the only sleep away camps.
The start of camp is just over 100 days away, and we know that both parents and campers are getting really excited. We also know that even our returning campers have tons of questions as they prepare for the summer of 2015. In recent weeks we’ve written articles for parents and campers about camp bedtime rituals, why free play is our campers’ favorite time of the day and some new and exciting news about evening sports clinics and arts master classes. If you have not yet shared them with your camper we urge you to do so now! This information can be very helpful in preparing your child for a successful first season at our summer camp in New Hampshire.
Another Amazing Special Event For Our Brother/Sister Summer Camp In NH
Our camp community loves being together, and this weekend we had a really fun party in the Boston area. Veteran campers, staff and parents, along with many of our new campers, spent a Sunday afternoon playing Gaga and ping pong, working on art projects, celebrating the birthday of a friend, and just enjoying being together with our camp friends.
How a simple sign alleviated stresses about food allergies and intolerances
This weekend I was a wedding and saw a simple sign that caught me by surprise. I was impressed at how respectfully and easily it addressed the needs of guests with food allergies and intolerances. Here is a picture that I took of the sign:
We are a great summer camp for a child with food allergies!
We were very excited to see that our brother-sister summer camp in NH has yet again been recognized for providing a safe home for our campers with food allergies and intolerances. Yesterday afternoon, Staples.com wrote an article about the trend of summer camps providing a peanut and tree nut free environment. The word is clearly out about how happy we are to provide our community members with meals that meet their dietary needs, including gluten free, dairy free, egg/albumen free, and more! We are also honored to be one of the first camps listed on the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network's Safe Camp list.
Recently, I was asked to be a speaker at an event hosted by the New England Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The goal of this gathering was to help the parents of children with food allergies figure out if summer camp was even a possibility for their children. As a director of an overnight camp in NH that has welcomed children with severe food allergies for more than a decade I was pleased and proud to be a part of this.
As I fielded questions from the audience it became clear that there were two main worries on the minds of the many parents in the room:
1) How do I go about determining if a particular summer camp is safe for my child with food allergies?
2) And on a more fundamental level, are there camps in New England that truly want campers with life-threatening food allergies?”
As we went around the room I discovered that almost every parent had been told by at least one camp that their child’s food safety needs could not and would not be met for this coming summer. It saddens me that there are still many overnight camps that shy away from making the reasonable accommodations necessary to make their community safe for people with allergies and intolerances. When Kenwood and Evergreen set out on this course many years ago we knew it would involve some changes to our food systems and a whole lot of ongoing education, but we also knew that doing so would make our community available to some pretty fantastic kids (and staff). I know that we are not alone in believing that this is the right thing to do. My co-speaker at this event, Will Rubenstein, is the director of a wonderful camp on Camp Cod called Wingate-Kirkland. Though different in session length and programming structure, Wingate-Kirkland also believes that it is important to create a safe environment for kids with food allergies. I know that there are other camps out there like us, and I applaud them all!