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Kids have allergies…or food issues?

Choose a camp that that accommodates your child

choosing a camp for kids with food allergies

Although the thermostat may be dipping now, summer will be here before we know it. If you have a child with a food allergy or other dietary needs, that might mean looking for a summer camp program that can accommodate him at lunch and snack times. Luckily, the Hudson Valley has lots of options for kids with dietary restrictions, from mild allergies to severe conditions.

If your family keeps kosher, Camp Dunnabeck at The Kildonan School In Amenai prepares and serves kosher foods. It is also equipped to meet the needs of campers who require gluten free, lactose free, vegetarian, and vegan meals. All of the food is prepared in-house by a full-time kitchen staff.

“Our chef manager, who designs the menus, is a Culinary Institute of America trained chef,” says Jeremy Robbins, director of the camp. “She consults with a nutritionist when preparing the menu.”

Additionally, the camp prefers whole, locally sourced ingredients when preparing recipes, even when serving meals such as chicken tenders. They also serve Hudson Valley Fresh brand milk products.

paying for summer camp

The Performing Arts Camp at French Woods Festival in Hancock can also accommodate a wide range of dietary needs. They have eliminated all types of nuts from their menus and their snack machines. For kids who are able to choose their own foods, all menu and salad bar items are labeled as necessary – “contains soy,” “contains gluten,” etc. – so they can easily identify what they can and cannot eat.

For cooked meals, the kitchen staff will prepare alternatives wherever possible that meet the needs of campers with sensitivities. “If we’re having pizza one night, we’ll make a gluten free pizza as well so that no one feels left out,” says Isaac Baumfeld, the camp director. For kids with more serious issues, the chef will meet with a camper’s parent or physician to align on what can and cannot be on the table.

The camp also maintains separate lines in the kitchen to avoid cross contamination. The chefs try to create menus that feature both food kids will eat and food that’s good for them.

“Sometimes kids will eat differently at camp than they do at home,” says Baumfeld. “If a camper friend says, ‘Hey, try these brussel sprouts,’ it might be more effective than when Mom says it.”

what to pack for summer camp

But even if your child does not come home with a newfound love for vegetables, the most important thing, of course, is that he is well-fed and safe. If your child has a nut allergy, many camp kitchens are nut free. If you’re unsure whether a camp is nut free, check with the director – most can accommodate such allergies. At Duchess Arts Camp, campers bring their own bag lunches, while drinks and snacks are provided by the camp.

“We ask parents to fill out a form explaining food allergies or special dietary needs,” says Carol Wolfe, executive director of Mill Street Loft, which runs their camp programs. Wolf says that the designated staff members who prepare snacks are made aware of those needs.

Camps such as Duchess Arts Camp and Beacon Art Studios that do not serve hot lunches can also be an option for kids with food restrictions. You can sleep easy knowing exactly what he’ll eat that day. And of course, always make sure to communicate your child’s dietary needs to the camp staff and nurse. Even if working around a specific diet isn’t mentioned explicitly on their website or in promotion materials, it’s possible they can make arrangements so that your child can enroll and have a great summer!

Elora Tocci is a freelance writer born and raised in the Hudson Valley. She is a communications director at Teach for America in New York City.