How to Feed a Boy Scout for a Week at Camp (With Food Allergies)

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Boy Scout with Food Allergies

Wardee: I’m so glad Sonya is sharing this today, not only because it’s jam-packed with an inspiring can-do attitude and great ideas, but also because it is perfect timing to announce our brand-new 8th class — the Allergy-Free Cooking eCourse. This class is included with all memberships. If you’re not already a member, I’d love for you to join us as we explore the ins and outs of simple, nourishing and delicious allergy-free cooking!

Trust me. Feeding a Boy Scout for a day at home is a big enough challenge, especially if said Scout has the appetite of the typical American teenager. At our house, we’ve officially entered the phase of adolescence where we routinely hear, “What’s for dinner?” — during breakfast.

Add in the extra challenges of preparing traditional foods and working around food allergies, and the task of providing a balanced and nourishing diet for a week-long adventure away from home becomes even more daunting. Fortunately, I am usually ready to rise to the occasion. :)

The Challenge

The occasion this past month just happened to be Scout camp. My husband, Shawn, and our two oldest boys — Kellen and Kerrick — decided to join other members of their troop at Camp Geronimo in the mountains of northern Arizona for a week of tent camping, hiking, swimming, rifle shooting and merit-badge earning.

Meals were included in the camp fee, but I knew that really didn’t apply to Kellen, who has had lifelong allergies to dairy, eggs, wheat/gluten and some nuts. I also knew that I couldn’t count on the camp staff to be knowledgeable about food allergies — or willing to accommodate them.

Kellen had a not-so-stellar experience at a different camp last year, despite our repeated interactions in advance with the head chef, who assured us that plenty of safe foods would be served. Many close calls and disappointing meals later, Kellen returned home after a week hungry and understandably unhappy with his first mess-hall experience.

We were determined not to repeat it.

The Solution

Several weeks before camp this summer, we contacted the staff to ensure that Kellen would be permitted to bring all of his own food, and that he would have a way to keep it cold all week and also heat some items when needed. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that he could keep his food (labeled with his name and troop number) in a huge walk-in refrigerator, and that he would also have access to two toaster ovens in the camp kitchen. Perfect!

I asked Kellen to write up a menu of meals he might like to take. We figured that he would need to plan three meals a day for eight days — plus snacks to tide him over.

Here’s what he came up with:

Breakfasts: sourdough pancakes and waffles with butter and syrup, bacon and homemade turkey sausage patties.

Lunch: turkey sandwiches on sourdough English muffins; beef tacos with corn tortillas, guacamole and refried beans; chips and fruit.

Dinners: turkey burgers on sourdough English muffins, beef hot dogs.

Not bad for starters.

I embellished a bit — in particular for one special dinner on his 13th birthday: spaghetti and meatballs, plus a slice of chocolate birthday cake left over from our early family celebration.

GrahamCrackers-Web

And I added a few other surprises, too, including banana-chocolate chip muffins, strawberry applesauce, strawberry-apple fruit leather and a special s’mores kit — complete with allergen-free marshmallows and chocolate bars, and homemade grain-free graham crackers.

We spent the week before camp preparing and cooking all of it, freezing some of it, and packaging everything in meal-size portions in labeled plastic containers and zipper bags, as well as a few glass jars.

Cooler-Web

Here’s exactly what we packed, by the numbers:

Smores-Web

Success Story

I am happy to say: Kellen did not return home hungry this year!

In fact, he actually brought back some of the food I’d sent. Turns out, the staff at this camp this year actually DID understand food allergies and went out of their way to provide something that Kellen could safely eat — even if it wasn’t traditionally prepared — at almost every meal.

And on his birthday, the head chef surprised him with a special loaf of gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free apple-banana bread; a thoughtful gesture and a much-appreciated gift. After this year’s successful trial run, Kellen is ready for a repeat next year!

Now What?

As for MY next challenge, it looks like it will probably be: How to fuel a junior-high athlete for an entire basketball season.

Suggestions, anyone? How do you handle a week away for a loved one with food allergies or sensitivities?

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!

Comments

  1. says

    Awesome post!! Unfortunately we had our first week long Boy Scout camp food experience this year. When we called council to let them know our son has food allergies we were told we could not send any food at all but assured they could accommodate. Poor guy ended up sick all week even though it was said everything was ok for him. Next year ill be the mama bear and be much more insistent!
    Thanks!!

    • says

      I’m sorry about your son’s experience, Danna. :-( Because our second time around was so much better, I encourage you to try again! Mama Bear/advocate/educator — you can do it! :-)

  2. Stephanie M says

    I’m so glad things worked out! My scout will have his first summer away next year (maybe Geronimo) and I’m already worried… Family vacations are tricky enough, I can’t imagine handing him over to somebody else.

    • says

      We LOVE Camp Geronimo! :-) If your Scout goes there next summer, I hope he has a wonderful experience like we did this year. Meanwhile, you have some time to work with your son and empower him to be ready for it. It helped that my husband went along for the week “just in case,” but my son was pretty independent about it all.

  3. says

    This is GREAT! I sent my boy to camp for a week and it worked out OK b/c the camp was totally willing to work with us. I sent along extras for what they couldn’t do. (We’re sugar-free so it makes things a little more difficult.) Good job!

  4. Sarah Siebenaler says

    Wow, what an inspiration on advocating for your kids and not letting anything keep them in a bubble. I had a tiny taste of this experience when I took my 3 to cub camp and had to pack all kosher meats so the caterer could grill them, not so much an inconvenience as a trial to my already taxed memory.
    Although my own guys don’t have food allergies I love the recipes and keep them handy for when a few of friends visit. I love knowing that we are one of the few houses they can visit without being fearful and hyper-vigilant.
    Great post!

    • says

      Thank you, sweet Sarah, for commenting. :-) And thank you, too, for being so supportive of your friends who are working around food allergies. I’m sure they appreciate that!

  5. says

    Can’t wait to share this article with many friends and relatives. Some are gonna wish they’d had it in spring, but hey, they’ll be that much more prepared for next year.

    I especially liked where you allowed Kellen to create his own meal plan first! Brilliant on so many levels.

    • says

      Thanks for sharing, Kathy! It’s always been our goal to prevent Kellen’s food allergies from limiting him unnecessarily — and to help him be as independent as possible in handling them. We’re gradually getting there! :-)

  6. Ann says

    Glad to see these ideas. This will be my first summer sending a child with special dietary needs to camp, which is her absolute favorite week of the year! She needs to avoid grains, fruit and sugar to control type 1 diabetes. I have to admit that it all seems pretty overwhelming.

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