We love being a safe place for our gluten free & peanut free friends!July 8, 2016
Thursday’s are special days here at our overnight camp in NH. Most of the chefs have off, but that doesn’t mean we are without delicious meals. At lunch time the entire community has a massive picnic on the lawn around our dining hall. The kitchen staff today put out an amazing feast of different deli meats, a few types of salads, grilled meats, veggies and cheeses for make-your-own-nachos, and an array of fresh fruits and homemade cupcakes.
Because of our summer camp community’s commitment to keeping our friends with food allergies safe, we also had a whole separate area of gluten free meats, breads and cheeses for our GF campers and counselors. We also made sure to have dairy free and egg free desserts for those who need have those important food sensitivities.
We take food allergies really seriously here. We never want a particular ingredient to prevent a camper from joining our community, so we go to great lengths to make sure that we provide safe and delicious meals for every palette and dietary need. It’s why for many years now we’ve had one member of our chef team who focuses solely on making meals for our kids who eat gluten free, egg free, dairy free, or…whatever free they need to be!
This includes day and overnight trips. The Kenwood 1st Year Seniors just returned from a 2-night/3-day expedition up Mt. Washington, and while they needed to make sure that they always walked a safe trail, they also had to make sure that their food was right for everyone in the group. Allergies of our hikers included peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, wheat, and mustard. We’re a completely nut free camp, so that wasn’t hard to do, but we serve a lot of eggs, cheese and bread, so the counselors really had to know what they were doing. And the report I just got from the campers was that the food was “tasty, safe and awesome”. That’s a review that makes me smile.
Even our specialists get it and take this seriously. Just this morning I arrived at the Cooking Laboratory and asked the campers where Emily, the instructor was. In unison the boys exclaimed “she’s gone to get the gluten free soy sauce so that it’s safe for everyone!” When she arrived 30 seconds later I gave her a big hug and thanked her for always looking out for every one of our campers.
Tonight at our many cookouts it was the same. In every boys’ and girls’ age group we have campers who have food allergies, and our counselors know the protocols for keeping them safe. Knowing that their counselors are looking out for them and this need it allows our campers to use the grilling time for what is really important: playing with their friends and having fun!
After so many years of safely serving our campers with food allergies, many of them are now our counselors. Tonight at the girls’ BBQ a former camper with Celiac Spru was on hand to make sure that everything was safe and without cross contamination. I think you can see on the face of the girl on the right that it made all of the difference for her.
One of the favorite traditions in our Senior Boys’ Camp is that they get to grill at night before going to bed. They hang out, blast the tunes, and get to end the day with one more great moment together. This year we have a number of campers with severe allergies in this age group. Seeing an opportunity to be both a leader and a help to his friends, the camper in this photo has taken it upon himself to run a separate grill all summer long just for the kids who need to eat an allergen-free free, so that they can be safe and included. That pretty much sums up our campers and this community right there.
We made the changes necessary to be a safe place for our friends with allergies more than a decade ago, and even years later people are asking us about how we are able to do it (and why it’s so important to us). Take a look at this article written about us last week on the Allerdad website. We love that we are able to make this community available to so many wonderful campers, and that food is never a barrier to their admission.
One last non-food related thing about today. We grow very attached to the members of our community. They often stay with us for years and years, and some have been known to be here for decades. And then they move on with their lives and we don’t always see for a great long while.
Today we were visited by an alumnus named Oliver, along with his lovely wife Sarita and beautiful daughter Mia. Ollie and I were campers together, and while he was 6 years older than I was he stuck around long enough that we were even on staff together. His father and uncle grew up here, and in recent years more than half a dozen of his cousins half graduated from our summer camp. I have so many great memories of growing up with him, and as is often the case with camp friends, it took about 45 seconds to get back to laughing and rehashing the things we thought were funny 20+ years ago.
Ollie, his daughter Mia, and the daughters of two K&E Camp friends
I wanted to take a moment to thank Oliver and his family for visiting all the way from Chicago today, and to make sure that all of our camp alumni know how much we love and miss them. We hope that you will always consider this a second home, and that you have marked our upcoming Alumni Family Reunion on your calendar for this coming August 19-21.