Happy Food Day!  Food is a topic near and dear to camp people. And summer camp has become a place where much of the food and the food-related programming is fresh and new!

Everyone’s talking about food today—as we should. It’s National Food Day. Of course our thoughts turn to a subject very close to the hearts of campers and camp people everywhere. CAMP FOOD! You might have noticed our focus over the summer as we highlighted some of the creative, innovative, and inspirational ways camps are approaching food service and food-related programming. Camp food is an enormous topic; we've only begun to explore what’s new and to share some stories.

Campers need and deserve good food—just by virtue of the ultra-active lifestyle at camp. 

And, whether that food is packed at home and then eaten at day camp or served in the dining hall (or tent) of an overnight or day camp, it’s fueling folks who are burning a lot of calories doing very active things in all kinds of weather—including intense heat. There’s a need for it to be as nutritious as it is plentiful! Experts in food service are focusing their attention, energy and expertise on camp food in such powerful, interesting ways, as reflected in this article about the work and food philosophy of Bill Edgerton, chef at ACA Accredited Camp Chewonki (Wiscasset, ME).

Campers have the opportunity to learn about food through programming, especially cooking and gardening. There’s a farm to table movement afoot today that is alive at camps too, such as this program at ACA Accredited Camps Burgess and Hayward (Sandwich, MA). Food programming at camp is expanding exponentially to reflect the foodie culture children are growing up in. Many children come to camp knowing quite a bit about cooking in particular—just from watching TV. At camp, children are growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables, planning their own meals (particularly for trips) and even preparing and cooking food for themselves and others. Camp food experiences build life skills that support future independence! Camps experiences play a critically important role in building life skills. And they’re equally focused on cooking as science! Here’s a link to a story about a camper from ACA Accredited Camp Yavneh (Northwood, NH) whose food creation recently won her an audience with Michelle Obama and a post on the Let’s Move blog.

Campers also have the opportunity to learn much more about food in more subtle ways. In the rhythm of the camp day, people stop for meals. It’s a time on the schedule—and it’s often not rushed. So, some children who might not be accustomed to sitting around and sharing food with others get this experience at camp. They often benefit from a trained counselor who facilitates the conversation and the sharing—if food is being served family-style. Campers practice taking turns, simple civility like not talking with their mouths full, and how to take part in a larger conversation—all quite useful to know about in school and life. Campers have a chance to try foods they’ve never heard of or been offered; they expand their horizons in a culinary way. At camp children also have a front row seat to how staff members meet their own food needs. So, that Division 1 athlete who knows what kind of fuel she needs to perform well on the soccer or lacrosse field, is potentially a very powerful role model for campers and can help them understand organically the connection between good nutrition and the kind of energy an athlete needs.

Food is such an enormous part of camp life! And, on National Food Day, we’re sending a big shout out to camps for the large role they play in helping children learn about food!

Thank you ACA Accredited Camp Sunshine, Aloha Hive & Lanakila for providing photos!