From Hot Dogs to Haute Cuisine: Summer Camps Go Gourmet

by Bettina Elias Siegel on July 11, 2012

With many of us packing our kids off to sleep-away camp, be sure to check out the article in today’s New York Times on the growing focus of some summer camps on healthful, local and well-prepared food.   The shift from hot dogs to haute cuisine not only accommodates parents’ growing concerns about their kids’ diets, but also meets the discerning palates of little gourmands weaned on restaurant dining and the Food Network.  You can read the full story here.

And in case you missed it the first time around, this seems like a good time to remind you of my interview last September with one truly inspring summer camp director who makes ethical, healthful and sustainable food a real priority for his campers.

My own kids are headed off to their sleep-away camp in just a few days.  But when it comes to food, that camp is sadly more of the “bug juice” and Froot Loops variety.  What’s the food like at your kids’ summer day and sleep-away camps?  Is food a big factor in your decision making?  Would you be willing to pay significantly more in camp fees for better food?  Let me know in a comment below.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan T. July 11, 2012 at 10:47 am

For a stay of a “few days” I would be willing to send my non-asthmatic kids off to a Bug Juice/Froot Loops camp. For a longer stay, I’d pass, for reasons like: a.) we’ve come too far to regress and send the taste-buds back to industrialized hell for 3 squares a day for a length of time b.) my asthmatic child legitimately has an adverse reaction to artificial dyes and processed foods c.) if a camp cuts corners these days when it comes to food when fresh produce & clean drinking water is so widely available, it would make me wonder what else are they cutting corners on d.) I’d feel like a hypocrite for teaching them healthy eating habits, only to send them away for…say 3 weeks or a month….to a place where there are no options. I guess it all boils down to your underlying philosophy about food. I don’t consider that stuff to be “food,” and I don’t think it’s “fun,” so I think I’d find another camp.

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Wendy July 11, 2012 at 11:00 am

Let the kids have a vacation from the food police. A little s’mores and warm Pepsi and burned hotdogs smothered in ketchup won’t hurt them and the break from being constantly scolded and molded in the pudgy likeness of Jamie Oliver will recharge their little kid batteries. Otherwise send your precious kids to a themed “food camp” the same way some of us send our kids to “basketball camp”. Or keep them home an nanny them. It’s your kids – do what you want with them and let me do what I want with mine.

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Bettina Elias Siegel July 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Wendy: Not sure why you feel anyone is “doing” anything to your kids. The article cited here describes camps that appeal to a particular subset of parents and kids who place a high value healthful food. But parents are free to send their kids anywhere, and if hot dogs and Pepsi are a priority, there are plenty of camps – still the majority, by far – to accommodate that desire.

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Lenee July 18, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Not sure why kids need a break or “vacation” from what you, Wendy, refer too as the “food police.” If kids are raised with healthy eating habits, no fast food, minimal processed foods, home cooked meals, farmer’s market produce, and numerous organic options, they no longer look at soda, “Froot Loops”, Happy Meals, and frozen burritos and pizzas as treats. They see these things for what they are–crap that tastes like chemicals and preservatives, that have absolutely no nutritional value, and that actually do more harm than good.

It’s all about what you expose your kids to, how often you do it, and what education you provide with those foods. At young ages, both of my kids avoided crappy foods because they didn’t taste good to them, and they knew they weren’t good for them in any way. I never viewed “treats” as being some sort of soda, processed junk food, fast food, etc., even though I see parents all the time say, “Well, we only give them(fill in the blank) as a treat once in a while.” My beef with that is we as parents need to REDEFINE what a treat is. Something that is crappy and filled with chemicals, GMOs, artificial colors and flavors, high fructose corn syrup, is highly processed, etc., is NOT, in any way, a treat. How can something that is potentially harmful be a treat? A treat is going to the market and buying the ingredients for homemade cookies, cakes, or muffins, going to the farmer’s market and getting fresh peaches or berries for a cobbler, and then taking the time to bake this treat with your child, teaching them the skills needed to do so. Both of my kids grew up to be very skilled in the kitchen as avid bakers and chefs because we defined what a true treat is and they have, from day one, preferred to eat clean, real food. My daughter once came home to eat after driving all of her friends to a chain restaurant to eat. I asked her why she didn’t stay with them and she said she wanted to eat some real food. She ate leftovers at home and then went back and picked them all up and drove to their next activity.

Feed them well consistently, teach them how to treat themselves without compromising their health, and educate them about why we do things this way, and they will grow up to have amazing eating habits and diverse, well refined palates.

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Casey July 11, 2012 at 11:04 am

I have been looking for a camp that serves fruit instead of Fruit Loops. Hard to find in Kentucky but I may try this in California. http://www.hsresort.com/groups_summer.php

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mommm!!! July 12, 2012 at 9:55 am

I can barely afford to GO camping, let alone send my child to a camp. $11,000? Good lawd I could buy an entire car. :) However, for arguments sake, if I could afford to send my child to even a crappy camp, if they served crappy “food” ( I agree…I don’t define products like Froot Loops as actual food) then I would still probably pass.

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