Food is a big part of daily life at camp, so it’s always exciting to talk about our Dining Hall and the fun and meaningful nature of our mealtimes.
In fact our mealtimes are so legendary — Thanksgiving Dinner anyone? — that our alums will of course fondly remember the kitchen staff we had for many many summers, led by Miss Hazel. We know you miss them, and we do, too! After decades of feeding ‘Ghany Girls, Miss Hazel’s retirement was more than deserved! But her hearty meals have lived on in camp memories, archives, and even recipes we still use (Miss Carrie’s Rolls!).
Throughout the years, and remaining the same today, there are comfort foods, balanced meals, and nutrient-packed goodies that have always helped fuel campers’ bodies and always will. And at the same time, mealtime is a source of enjoyment with some fun foods included, such as pancakes, biscuits, and desserts (or their allergy-free alternatives). And we always enjoy the general camaraderie of our time in the Dining Hall.
Meal times are a festive occasion at camp, with songs and cheers being sung by all. We also have Lunch Under the Apple Tree on Thursdays, an occasional dinner under the Apple Tree or other special outdoor meals, cookouts at Carnivals and other events, and special meals such as Banquet. Counselors can arrange for campers to go on meal hikes to sites around Alleghany for a fun bonding experience, cooking over an open fire, too! Whatever the setup, meal times are a great opportunity for the whole of camp to come together.
But any way you cut, when you’re feeding around 350 people three times a day — campers, counselors, support staff, guests, and family (and possibly for off-site events like hikes)— the entire operation depends on many things coming off just right. It’s one of the biggest jobs at camp! We need excellent menus, good planning, smart shopping, superior coordination (split-second timing on cooking and serving), planning and executing allergen-free foods for those who need it, along with timely and thorough clean up, and, best of all, fun cultural elements like announcements, songs, chants, social time, and trying new foods.
Taste or Serving?
We extend our mission — naturally inspiring growth through loyalty, honor, and friendship — to the camp experience at mealtime. That’s why campers participate in our “Taste or Serving?” practice. This means that every able camper and staff will at least try new foods — either just a teaspoonful taste or a whole serving.
If such an approach to eating is new to you or your family, rest assured that the experience is presented in a joyful spirit at meals.
However, we all know that kids can be picky eaters! You may have a picky eater. You may think that no way is she going to try a taste of chicken parmesan or a taste of some cooked carrots much less a serving of vegetable soup!
Yet campers embrace this rather easily as just being “part of camp.”
But more than that, parents overwhelming report back to us in our summer-end surveys that their campers loved trying new foods and have become more adventuresome and less picky eaters after camp! Yay!
Our professional kitchen staff ensures that each meal provides the nutrients necessary for the girls to thrive while at camp. Campers are encouraged to try new things and take a taste or a serving of all foods in a meal. We can also accommodate special dietary requirements, ranging from food allergies to vegetarian, etc. — simply indicate this on your registration form (click here to read more about special dietary requirements).
Special Dietary Needs
Some of our campers have important dietary restrictions, such as being a vegetarian for personal or religious reasons, or being allergic/intolerant to a food, like gluten or lactose. Not having nuts or meat or bread or cheese in these circumstances is a real value and/or health concern. Camp Alleghany takes your child’s dietary needs as seriously as you.
We make every effort to be as inclusive and accommodating to dietary restrictions and food allergies as possible. That’s why these needs fall under an official fee- and contract-based plan for families — the Food Allergy/Dietary Restriction Agreement. With this we do two things:
- Make sure that all dietary restrictions are strictly met to the best of our ability.
- Try to help those with restrictions or allergies get similar foods as the rest of the camp (for example, gluten-free pancakes on regular pancake day, or a veggie or soy-based burger on hamburger days).
If your camper’s diet is restricted due to a medical condition such as Celiac disease, an allergy requiring an epi-pen, etc. there will be no additional fee or charge for substitute/alternative foods and meals. Your camper’s physician must sign the Health Form indicating that her dietary restriction is due to a medical condition.
However, because dietary restrictions and allergies often require food substitutions that are pricier than the food items purchased for the majority of camp, when a camper’s diet is restricted from one or more of the following foods, for reasons that are not medical (for example a choice to be vegetarian, doesn’t like dairy, etc.) a fee of $15/week is added to your ledger to help cover the increasing cost of allergen-free (or meat-free) substitute foods: eggs, dairy, gluten, meat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, meat. While shellfish is a common allergy, don’t worry as we don’t offer this at camp. This fee is added only if your camper wants substitute foods, example a vegan patty on hamburger day, or dairy-free ice cream. If she is fine to eat the other food options on the table or at the salad bar without having a substitute food item, there is no charge. (please contact the office with questions! Info@campalleghany.com)
When it comes to dietary preferences, such as vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free (as choice rather than a diagnosed medical need), we will respect and honor this, but campers must commit to it entirely for the one, three, or six weeks they’re at camp. In other words, if you’re asking us to procure veggie burgers for your camper under her Food Allergy/Dietary Restriction Agreement, then she can’t eat bacon when she wants to because that’s not vegetarian and with 450 people to feed three times a day, we need the simplicity of being able for her to fall under one dietary plan, not a patchwork plan.
But what about if a camper just doesn’t want to drink milk but does want to eat ice cream?
Milk is a beverage of choice, not a “taste or serving” requirement, and many campers self-manage their dairy intake. However, if she’s on a lactose-free Food Allergy/Dietary Restriction Agreement, she’ll have to forgo the ice cream, even if she thinks she’s able to tolerate dairy once-a-week. Camp will have dairy-free desserts for her in this instance.
Food Allergy/Dietary Restriction Contracts and Fee
Allergy contracts are designed for the safety of girls who would be at risk of health issues if they ingest a known personal allergen, or if they customarily live a strict dietary choice. In most cases, your camper will have a substitute food, especially if her restriction is one of eggs, dairy, gluten, meat, peanuts, tree nuts, or soy.
If her restriction is less common, such as an allergy to apples, she will still need a Food Allergy/Dietary Restriction Agreement, but won’t be charged the fee since there may not always be a substitute available. In this particular instance, she can avoid any apples on the salad bar, or in the case that we might have apple pie for dessert, an alternative dessert will be given. Apples aren’t as prevalent in everyday foods the way something like eggs, nuts, or soy may be, thus the substitutions won’t be needed on a daily or even weekly basis, based on our food menus at Alleghany.
Again, our Food Allergy/Dietary Restriction Agreement is all or nothing. With over 450 mouths to feed at three meals a day, seven days a week, for a whole summer, pickiness and occasional preference is not what we’re making special accommodations for. It’s too much to keep track of and invites potential disaster (she says she’s “fine” with ice cream and then a half hour later she’s doubled over in pain!).
She’s either registered with us as lactose intolerant in a Food Allergy/Dietary Restriction Agreement or she’s getting dairy at potentially every meal. So parents need to think this over very carefully when choosing whether she’ll eat our regular plan or will be under a Food Allergy/Dietary Restriction Agreement.
As a reminder, for dietary restrictions and allergies that require a substitution and are the camper’s preference or choice (i.e. non-medical), families are charged an additional $15/week fee for the main substitutions. There is no charge for food substitutions that are a medical food allergy and indicated on your health form with doctor’s signature. Those families who indicated an allergy or restriction on their health forms will receive a separate email from the Office with a note about the fee and your Food Allergy Contract attached before your camper’s session begins.