Snacktivism doesn’t stop when the school year ends. While some kids attend just a week or two of camp throughout the summer, others spend many weeks–or even most of the summer–at camp. It shouldn’t be a place where healthy food takes a permanent vacation.
Two years ago, I had my own moment of camp Snacktivism, when I called the director at a local university-affiliated camp to talk snacks. I wasn’t happy that my son was getting a sugary cereal bar and a bottle of sports drink every afternoon (read: “On The Front Lines of Snacktivism“). I urged her to drop the sports drinks and switch to healthier foods such as fresh fruit. She promised she would take my ideas into consideration.
When I received the camp information last year, it stated that they would only provide snacks on Fridays (and no more sports drinks). The rest of the week, parents could pack a snack if they thought their child needed it. When I called the director to follow up, she said this: “It made sense to us that if we can’t offer a healthy choice, we shouldn’t provide a snack. If we can’t be doing it in the way we should, we shouldn’t be doing it.” (read: “Camp Snacks: The Sequel“)
The moral of the story: It’s possible to change the camp snack culture, and it doesn’t take an army of angry parents. It can be a polite phone call, an email, or quick chat in person. If you need ideas for how to approach it, here’s a sample script. Feel free to cut, paste, and customize this for your own needs.
Dear (camp director),
My child is having a blast at camp this summer. Thank you so much for all you do for the kids!
I know the camp has the children’s best interests in mind, so I wanted to touch base with you about the snacks that are being served. I was hoping you’d consider limiting the chips and cookies in favor of something healthier. I understand the kids play hard at camp and need to refuel between meals. My concern is that these snacks are high in sugar and artificial ingredients and very low in nutrients. Would it be possible for the camp to provide something more nutritious? Some ideas: fresh fruit, raisins, bananas, apples, popcorn, whole grain crackers, baby carrots, cheese sticks, or cups of yogurt or natural applesauce.
I also hope you’ll consider eliminating the soda and sports drinks that are served in favor of water. Our kids can receive adequate hydration through frequent water breaks at the water fountain and with the water bottles they bring from home. In the case of sports drinks, kids can replenish any electrolytes lost through sweat at their next meal. Eliminating these drinks would also cut down on expense as well as the amount of waste that the camp generates.
I understand there may be limitations on what kind of food the camp can purchase and keep in storage, and this may not be a simple issue. But I would love to hear your thoughts, and I’d be happy to help in any way that I can.
Thanks so much for your time!
When approaching someone about food–whether it’s a camp director, preschool director, or church group leader–remember to:
- Be kind and complimentary first.
- State your concerns politely and objectively. Have specific suggestions, not just complaints.
- Offer your help in some way.
- Follow up.
For more ideas, check out Caron Gremont’s success story about changing camp snacks, “From Oreos to Apple Slices“, that appeared on the Huffington Post.