snacktivism

Change Camp Food!

You may be in back-to-school mode, but if you were unhappy with the snacks or meals your child received at summer camp this year, now is the time to speak up. Why now? Because camps are sending out end-of-summer evaluations and surveys–and there’s plenty of time to look at parent feedback and make improvements for next summer.

This summer, I posted a sample email you could cut, paste, customize, and send to camp directors about junk food snacks (access it here). Turns out, Melanie of Cultivate Wellness found my post while searching for a way to express her displeasure about the food her daughter was getting at camp. She used it as a template to send a letter to the camp director. When she told me, I asked if I could post it here as another great resource for you:

Dear [Camp Director],

My daughter  is really enjoying her fifth year at [name of camp]. The smiles and stories she has every day when she comes home are priceless! Thank you for making it such a success!!!

She has filled me in on the food items provided at the overnight as well as the picnic lunch from last week. From what I understand it was Doritos with cheese and meat and “camp cones” (marshmallows, ice cream cones and chocolate) for the lunch, and when I picked her up from the overnight for a sporting event, she was eating Pop-Tarts, Froot Loops and chocolate chip pancakes. With the childhood diabetes and obesity rates rising higher and higher, I am wondering if you would be willing to consider some different items in the future. In fact, on the welcome flyer sent home with my daughter, one of your areas of focus is Healthy Living: Improving the nation’s health and well-being.

I am not opposed to treats, in fact, we incorporate treats into our lives at home in moderation. However, the overwhelming amount of sugar and trans-fats and processed food provided at the camp meals is concerning to me (and probably many other parents as well).

Bananas, air popped pop­corn and clemen­tines are per­fect exam­ples of inex­pen­sive foods that would help sat­isfy kids’ hunger, fuel them for camp, and ben­e­fit their bod­ies. For breakfast, might I suggest limiting it to just one of the sugary items and supplementing with scrambled eggs to provide some healthy protein. For the cookout, even grass fed local hot dogs with whole wheat buns, or even the Walking Tacos made with plain tortilla chips would be a better choice.

Perhaps I’m the only mom to have spo­ken up, but I am quite sure that with the health crisis our country is experiencing (where this generation of children is the first in centuries to be expected not to live longer than their parents did) that there are many other parents who are equally as con­cerned about junk food in their kids’ diets–and would be happy to know that the [name of camp] is help­ing by pro­vid­ing healthy snacks. And even if the parents aren’t clued in to the dangers of eating excessive amounts of sugar, trans fats and processed foods, I think you could do a real service in helping kids and families learn about healthy eating.

I know that the you care about our kids and want the best for them. Return­ing campers might miss all the processed food at first, but I think they would for­get about them quickly and grow to love and appre­ci­ate the healthy offer­ings just as much. My daughter mentioned that she was trying to figure out what was the healthier option at breakfast — the Froot Loops or the Frosted Flakes. It would be great for kids to go to camp knowing they don’t even have to think about that kind of thing.

Please consider this in the long run. I would be happy to work with you on choosing items that work for your budget and storage needs. Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I really do appreciate all your hard work.

Sin­cerely,

Melanie

Though she hasn’t heard back from the camp yet, Melanie sent a similar one to another camp director and got this response.

Hello Melanie,

I’m glad to hear you daughter enjoyed camp! We like to see campers having fun and learning new things.

I appreciate your feedback on snacks. It’s something we’ve long struggled with because of our budget constraints and sheer volume of campers we host. We’re currently working towards offering more healthy options in upcoming camps. Thanks again for your feedback!

Bottom line: Camp food doesn’t have to be all junk. Camp directors need to hear from parents. Parents CAN make a difference.

For more about camp food, read Camp Snacks: The Sequel and Changing Camp Snacks For The Better.

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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.

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Soccer Snacks on Steroids: Is THIS Why It Started?

April 30, 2014

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 […]

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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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