A valuable component of summer camp life is the courage that is instilled in children to try new things. This is usually visualized as a child learning to canoe, or achieving a swim badge, or making it to the top of a climbing wall. Parents see a real value in their children learning to subsist outside of their comfort zone. But what about trying broccoli? What about eating brown bread for grilled cheese? In some cases, these are larger challenges for children to take on. I’ve seen kids brought to tears by the mere suggestion that they should eat their crusts.
Allergies, vegetarians, gluten and lactose intolerance are all common dietary restrictions and we happily accommodate. After all, these substitutions are a matter of health. However, for lunch we also begrudgingly offer pasta for children who don’t like the main course. And in recent years, we’ve seen more kids eat pasta, not because they don’t like the main course, but because they simply like pasta better. What could contain less risk than a bowl of plain pasta? Developing a taste for different foods relies first on trying them. And if kids have the option, they’d rather stick with what they know.
In some cases, parents are to blame for this. For years, I’ve cooked two meals because ‘I knew’ that my daughter wouldn’t eat what I was having. Then, about two years ago I noticed the things that she was eating at camp. Lasagna laced with veggies, cooked corn, scrambled eggs, salad – things that she refused to eat on my watch and yet at camp, she indulged happily. Since then, her choices at home have been far fewer when it comes to meals.
For our residential program, we don’t offer substitutions for breakfast or dinner and it doesn’t seem to be a problem. The campers simply eat what we serve. They’re not always happy about it, but it’s very rare that a camper won’t ‘like’ two meals in a row.
I think that a little adventure when it comes to our camp menu would have a positive affect on the campers. Wouldn’t it be great if we took the opportunity camp presents to expand the child’s pallet? It would certainly make packing lunches for children during the school year a whole lot easier.