Changing Camp Snacks For The Better

by Sally on July 7, 2014

Camp Snackivism by Real Mom Nutrition

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:

  1. Be kind and complimentary first.
  2. State your concerns politely and objectively. Have specific suggestions, not just complaints.
  3. Offer your help in some way.
  4. 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.


The Real Reason for Soccer Snacks on Steroids?

Remember when soccer snacks were simple orange slices on the sidelines?

Someone’s mom brought a Tupperware container full of them for halftime. You sucked out the juice or peeled the fruit from the rind while getting a pep talk from your coach, then ran back onto the field.

Flash forward a few decades and orange slices have been replaced with Ritz Bits and Goldfish crackers, with bakery donuts and large frosted cupcakes, with goodie bags full of candy washed down with pouches of Capri Sun or bottles of sports drinks. (Read: “Soccer Mom Soapbox“)

This Soccer Snack on Steroids is a relatively recent concept. So how did we get here? How did we go from fresh orange slices for halftime hydration to Krispy Kremes just for showing up?

I was chatting with a friend of mine about this, and she had a theory I found intriguing: Today’s kids are starting organized sports at a much younger age than they used to. In my community, a child can start pee-wee soccer at age 4. Some of these kids are raring to go, jogging up and down the field like a boss. But others aren’t so sure. Their parents are poised with the shin guards, camp chairs, and zoom lenses. But the kids would rather stay home. They need a little convincing.

They need a bribe.

More than a few parents have told me that the junky snack is their child’s favorite part of playing sports. And one of the main arguments I’ve heard against fruit as a soccer snack is that the kids should be rewarded with something “fun” for playing. So are we afraid that without the junk, our kids won’t actually want to play sports?

Is it possible we’re feeding our children junk food in order to entice them to be active?

And if so, isn’t that a little nuts?

To mobilize change in your community, check out the free resources in my Sports Snacktivism Handbook.


Soccer Mom On A Mission…Watch It!

March 13, 2014

Two years ago, I tromped around the soccer fields in my community, snapping photos of the snacks I was seeing. I set the photos to music and turned them into a video slideshow called “Soccer Mom On A Mission”, with the hopes of raising awareness and mobilizing a new wave of Snacktivists to create change. After […]

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All About Snacktivism: My Interview in StayBasic Magazine

February 23, 2014

A few years ago, I got fed up with the Kool-Aid and cupcakes my son was getting after soccer games and vowed to make a change. I began talking to coaches and parents about providing fruit for post-game snacks instead–or even nixing snacks altogether (read: “What If Soccer Snacks Just Went Away?“). One day, a […]

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In Praise of Food Activism, Big & Small

February 18, 2014

Have you noticed that regular people are doing some very big stuff? Vani Hari (aka Food Babe) gets the attention of major food companies by exposing some of the questionable ingredients in their products–and demanding they do better. In response to her widely-circulated blog posts, Chik-fil-A is removing artificial dyes from its sauces and dressings […]

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A Call for Candy-Free Valentines

February 4, 2014

Remember Valentine’s Day as a kid? If your school was anything like mine, you found an old shoebox, cut a slot in the top, and decorated it with paper doilies and puffy heart stickers. You stationed it on your desk at school and made the rounds in the classroom, giggling and dropping valentines in your […]

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Why I’m No Fan of Sports Drinks

January 22, 2014

The longer I am a parent, the more irritated I become about sports drinks. I am irritated that million-dollar marketing tactics are used to woo children with star athletes, logos splashed all over televised sporting events, and online comics and games. It’s wrong. How wrong? Last year, Gatorade actually developed a video game in which the player maneuvers […]

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10 Food-Free Ways to Celebrate School Birthdays

October 28, 2013

I love cupcakes as much as the next person. I have sweet memories of the birthday cupcakes my mom made for me when I was a child (read “For the Love of Cupcakes“), and I’m sure that some years, she brought those cupcakes to school. But for better or worse, cupcakes at school are on […]

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When Soccer Snacks Get Personal

October 23, 2013

I’ve long known there are parents in my community who aren’t on board with my soccer snack mission. That’s okay. The response has been overwhelmingly positive from coaches and parents. And I know that in order to make change happen–to shift the culture and the thinking surrounding soccer snacks–there will be people who don’t agree, […]

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Will The Real “Healthy Snack” Please Stand Up?

September 23, 2013

I’ve been known to gripe about the state of kids’ snacks (read: “Snacktivism“). I’m so tired of Fruit Roll-Ups, Capri Suns, and Cheez-Its being trotted out for every. single. kid-related. event. And I’m thrilled when I see parents, school administrators, church leaders, and coaches asking for better quality snacks–especially now at the start of the […]

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