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Engineer61

Picky Eaters and Restrictive Diets

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Holy Smokes, hopalong. I'd just drive the troop into town to a short-order diner.

 

Maybe you can put the vegans, vegetarians and other ruminants in one patrol? Kosher and Halal are close enough to eat together (they did that at world jamboree -- all the Jews and Muslims in one line to eat was interesting). Gluten and lactose intolerant together?

 

In all seriousness, you've got so many different variables there, I'm not sure what I would do. I would be concerned that all the different menus and kids opting-in and out of meals would effect patrol unity. Cooking and eating together is a big part of the glue that binds patrols.

 

We have a big troop and have never had a serious alergy issue. We do have one Scout on sodium restrictions, but not severe that one weekend makes a big difference. He just knows to pass on the bacon and potato chips. At summer camp, the kitchen staff does prepare a low-sodium plate for him. If the patrol menu gets too out of range for him, he will speak up and get the other guys to make some adjustments.

 

Question -- is gluten-free an alergy or a choice? I know there are folks with gluten intolerance, but you hear so much about it in the media I'm wonder if it's not also a new fad diet.

 

 

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Hopalong,

 

Unless all the non-medical restrictive eaters are in one patrol, placing thier dietary preferences above the tastes of the other members of their patrols will create ill will amoung the boys. My son had a vegan in his patrol once who insisted that everything had to be vegan from the get go and him eating/preparing something separate was bullying. The rest of the patrol sincerely disliked this boy's attitude and actually intensified their already meat laden meals. As the boy was there for food planning, he had opportunity to object or at least insist they eat a vegetable along with the meat extravaganza.

 

Your troop already has kids handling thier own medically required food issues in the best way possible: they pay the grub fee and bring thier own substitutes if necessary. If the parents of the picky preferences don't like it, they can take their boys to an adult led troop or form their own troop.

 

Not every minor conflict needs a committee to promulgate a policy.

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Twocubdad, it is a challenge and for at least one of the gluten free kids it is a family choice. We're seeing more and more families in our area choose gluten free because they "feel better". One of our steps is going to be to stress to parents that any medically necessary diets need to be listed on the med form.

 

Our boys are in age similar patrols. It works out very well, except for the meal issue. I'm wondering what it would be like to do as you say for meals only. The gluten free kids plan their meals together, but tent w/ their regular patrol. Same for the vegetarians. They would probably eat better and the ill will that you point out, Nike, between the diet needs/regular diet kids, would be reduced. The eating together portion of the patrol method would be lost, but good will increased? Would give the special diet kids a chance to get creative within their diet restrictions. Those with the severe allergies could continue to do as they do since it works for them.

 

Perhaps the policy we come up with needs to be more in the form of general guidelines such as having the patrols regroup for meals around diet issues and having the goal of keeping kids safe while finding a balance between the needs of the many and the needs of the few. Listing a few options for how this can be carried out so the troop can flex the method as needed.

 

One question...if we have a vegetarian leader...would it be a bad thing for them to be in the food patrol with the vegetarian boys? Is that crossing a line or is it being flexible to meet a need?

 

 

 

Would probably have to combine other regular eating patrols as well or we'll have to come up with gear for two more patrols for cooking.

 

Finding a place where everyone can eat out is a whole 'nother story. At that point, the troop stops where the severe allergy kids can eat safely and everyone orders something or the severe allergy kids pack a lunch.

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I sympathize with what you're trying to accommodate, hopalong, but I think the idea of recombining patrols for meal times is the wrong approach. That breaks up any sense of real patrol identity. People bond over food. And a lot of patrol activities revolve around planning, cooking, eating, and cleaning up after meals. This is a big part of where boys learn to work together as a team. Breaking that up - and also inserting adults into that mix (the vegetarian adult eats with the vegetarian kids, etc.) just further weakens the troop's use of the patrol method.

 

In a former troop - there were several boys with mild allergies and food issues, a couple of them with severe issues or medical/religious restrictions. The one with the most severe issues was allergic to a host of items, most of which could have been fatal. He typically packed his own things. When he was grub master his patrol ate what he did. The rest of the boys with mild issues or a limited palate, had their say when menus were being planned. The boy with very severe issues who never ate anybody else's food did get a break on the grub costs.

 

But for the rest - parsing the cost of what they will/won't eat for every meal gets to be way too complicated and annoying.

 

I think your "policy" should be that patrols work with their own scouts to be aware of food allergies & preferences, and(with exceptions for life-threatening issues), the responsibility lies with the SCOUTS to be a vocal and constructive part of the menu-planning process. Maybe instead of "policy" the troop needs to model what constructive participation by the scouts in this process actually looks like.

 

I also think somebody might want a quiet word with your troop's SPL about helping his PLs address this issue more successfully in their patrols. Maybe some troop meetings where different types of cooking are practiced, based on different recipes that work for a wider variety of people, would also be good? I know the boys - esp the younger ones - tend to fall back on meals that are easy & familiar, which often tend to be heavy & laden with all kinds of troublesome ingredients. Maybe their cooking & eating comfort zone needs expanding.

 

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Lisabob, I agree with your concerns. What we're doing now is that each patrol works it out. We have vegetarian kids eating potato chip sandwiches because the rest of the kids in their patrols won't agree to things like cheese for sandwiches and the veggie kids who are vocal get voted down. Yes, they could bring their own cheese. The non-veggie kids want to be able to not have to cook two different items - one with and one without meat. They're tired of mac & cheese. Then there are the gluten free kids who can eat the meat, but no gluten so only rice or rice noodles and thickened sauces ONLY if they're thickened w/o gluten ingredients. Some of the kids really pay their own way and object to paying a higher grub fee (in addition to objecting to the food) so that everyone can eat the same thing. So while they're trying to carry out the letter of the patrol method, it isn't having the desired result of unifying the boys as a part of the patrol. The result is our regular diet kids resent the restrictions of the special diet kids and the special diet kids don't feel part of the patrol at meal time.

 

Bringing their own food addresses the resentment issues, but doesn't unify the patrol around cooking/meals. Special diet kids will always be preparing some portion of their own meal, feeling left out of that process anyway, so there isn't unification. If they prepare as a part of a veggie patrol, for example, at least they would be a part of a group. The question arises that if they have to prepare their own food as individuals, do they also have to help w/ the patrol food prep and clean up their cook gear and the patrols? If they are going to have a hot meal, they may even have to wait until the rest of the patrol is done cooking or we're looking at some creative way to share the equipment so everyone can eat at the same time.

 

Not shooting down your recommendation because as I said I share the concerns. I believe that if you have special diet needs and go to Philmont, you are welcome to bring your own, so that is definitely a precedence within BSA. That is really the easiest, cleanest option. Looking for an approach that supports the patrol method AND meets the needs of the individuals, to the greatest extent possible.

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LisaBob said it well. Don't let this tail wag the dog.

 

I do think trying to group some of the kids with restrictive diets together will help. Maybe there is enough commonality between their diets they can find a menu that works for most. Or maybe if you have all the guys fending for themselves in one patrol, then at least the other patrols can have a more "normal" patrol meal.

 

I have a lot of sympathy for the guys with medical resrictions and respect for he boys trying to follow their religious principles. But I have to admit I'm a less symathetic with the families which make a choice and expect everyone else to accommodate them. Everyone else has to be flexible because they aren't. My wife's neice is Ova-pesca-somethin'-er'-'nother-tarian. Basically she eats anything she wants except beef, pork and chicken. But it really just serves to put her in charge of what everyone else eats.

 

As a Scout leader, the thing you have to do is stand up for the Patrol Method and the boys who want the experience of working together as a patrol, meal times included. Parent solutions to this are going to be everyone cooking for themselves, mommy bring his meals for him, or something similar. The easy solutions to this are to throw the patrol method in the corner. Don't let that happen.

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"We have vegetarian kids eating potato chip sandwiches because the rest of the kids in their patrols won't agree to things like cheese for sandwiches and the veggie kids who are vocal get voted down. Yes, they could bring their own cheese. The non-veggie kids want to be able to not have to cook two different items - one with and one without meat. They're tired of mac & cheese. Then there are the gluten free kids who can eat the meat, but no gluten so only rice or rice noodles and thickened sauces ONLY if they're thickened w/o gluten ingredients. "

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OK so here's where some leadership needs to happen. Frankly, the gluten free thing sounds like less of an issue than the veggies. There are lots of gluten-free options these days and if thickening sauces is the biggest issue - well, not that big an issue. So I'll focus on the vegetarians.

 

Within the troop:

 

1) PLs and SPL need to be talking with each other about what it means to be responsible for a group of people. A discussion led by the SPL at an upcoming PLC about "do you think it is right that Joe has only potato chips for every meal?" combined with a renewed look at the food pyramid to examine options OTHER THAN meat, may be in order. And why is the SPL signing off on meal plans that leave boys with no options other than potato chips, in the first place?

 

The SPL will need some backing here, and possibly also some guidance in prepping for this PLC conversation. And if the SPL is, himself, part of the problem (ignoring the needs of the scouts with dietary concerns), then somebody (ahem, SM) needs to have a conversation along these same lines with the SPL first. Leading people means taking their legitimate needs into account - not ignoring them because they're inconvenient.

 

2) Eating & Cooking lessons! The (meat eating) boys may actually believe that mac & cheese is the only vegetarian option out there that tastes good. They may turn their noses up at the notion of tofu or seitan and their response to the merest suggestion of lima beans (or other veggies) might not be positive. But there are so many options. This is where I think you could have some fun, teaching the boys to cook more adventurously and still eat tasty meals that don't include unpopular or unacceptable items.

 

Some ideas here:

 

**Have a troop pot-luck. Ask each boy to prepare or bring his favorite home-cooked dish, along with the exact recipe for it. Do a little strong-arming to convince kids to try new foods (within the realm of their dietary restrictions, of course). Collect the recipes. Figure out how to adapt for cooking on a camp out. From this, put together a troop cook book.

 

**Invite local chefs from vegetarian restaurants or from local culinary schools to visit your troop and share ideas/techniques. Explain to them what you're trying to do. Maybe work with them to arrange preparation of some tasty snack/dish that the boys can all eat, and allow them to help prep and sample it at a meeting.

 

**Contact the folks who do the cooking at your troop's usual summer camp (if your camp has a dining hall). Ask them how they deal with these issues at camp, and seek input. Better yet - ask your Roundtable staff to bring these folks to an upcoming Roundtable!

 

**Have some troop cooking contests at your regular troop meetings. Encourage boys to cook alone or in pairs so that they don't get into fights with each other about what's on their menu. Do themes - one week, cracker barrel foods/soups/breakfasts/sides/desserts, etc. Depending on how skilled they are, you may need them to consult with somebody (SPL? Troop instructor?) before or during cooking so it turns out edible (no point in exposing people to badly cooked food that tastes nasty - kind of self-defeating!).

 

**Give each patrol a "mystery ingredient" that they MUST feature in one dish at a campout (or cooking contest). Make it something that can be eaten by everybody in their patrol. Again depending on skill, you might want to include a cheat sheet of instructions/ideas on how to cook it.

 

**Lead the way as adults. Cook mouth-watering items that are edible for all the boys, and encourage the boys to taste them. Then teach them to cook them.

 

 

 

Anyway, my point is: the quick & easy answer is either to let the adults do the planning, shopping, cooking (mom/dad sends food) or to break up your patrols.

 

The longer-term answer is to help teach boys better leadership skills (SPL to PL: "No, Billy, it isn't being a good PL to force Joe to eat potato chip sandwiches all weekend.") AND to broaden their range of foods they'd even consider eating and cooking.

 

 

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Lisabob,

 

Your points are well taken and you have great suggestions. You are correct that there is the quick and easy way where the adults take care of it and the harder way where the scouts sort it out. The harder way does require adult monitoring, modeling, and leadership.

 

A troop cookbook is a great idea. If I'm not mistaken, even our gluten free kids could eat the recipe you posted on the no meat thread.

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I think Lisabob is right on! None of the restricted diets mentioned are really a problem, it's a matter of perception, education, and thoughtfulness. Put the meat on the side, serve rice instead pasta, have some single-serving soymilk available for cereal. Lots of solutions when people care to find them. It is in everyone's interest to keep the scouts well fed, if only from a behavior point of view.

 

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my suggestion was similar to Lisabob...

 

for a few campouts have patrols cook differently...

 

1 patrol cook "normal meals"

 

1 patrol cooks vegitarian meals

 

1 patrol cooks gluten free meals

 

and next campouts rotate.

 

have the boys eat whatever they are able to eat - including those that don't eat gluten free try something that is.

 

meetings prior have them find recipes that fit the kind of meal they have to cook. make it into a patrol cooking challenge... that might make them see that there are things other than mac n cheese to cook for vegatarian meals.

 

then have the patrol meetings have all the boys discuss how they thing meals should be handled in future - then PL discuss it into PLC and see what they think is best way to go from there. would be interesting to see what they think is best way to go.

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IM_Kathy, more great suggestions. Really mixing it up to challenge each patrol to cook a different type of meal.

 

Challenging for sure to get the kids to operate outside of their comfort zones. Especially if part of scout camping to them involves a particular meal that they may feel they have to give up to accommodate someone else.

 

Bottom line is getting the majority to change up their way of doing things to accommodate the minority. The minority will be very happy indeed, but the majority also needs the opportunity to be equally as happy and have their needs/preference met. Just because the meat eaters can eat meatless dishes, doesn't necessarily mean they should be required to. Would be akin to requiring the veggies to eat meat dishes, no? Some flexibility on the part of all is needed.

 

Gluten free/celiac and allergic kids are a different story.

 

We definitely need to ask the PLC how they feel these diets are best handled.

 

It is a complex and personal issue for all.

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hopalong, you'd want to check the packaged rice and the potatoes with your celiac folks, first. I don't know a whole lot about gluten issues, but I have heard that a lot of packaged convenience foods have gluten added to them. I'd think the potatoes would be ok but I'm not sure.

 

About the meat eaters' preferences - yeah, ok, they do have a "right" to have their favorite camp foods too. All the gloriously greasy bacon they can manage, or whatever. I'm not suggesting they give it up entirely, but only that they learn to accommodate others, too. If they insist on having *only* their meaty, gluteny favorites that the others cannot eat, then that's selfish of them and they need more guidance. There is no reason for any kid to be reduced to potato chip sandwiches on every campout because the rest of the patrol refuses to purchase appropriate food. And having an occasional meat-free meal won't hurt anybody! Unless they have dietary restrictions prohibiting consumption of grains and vegetables, perhaps? Nope, didn't think so!

 

 

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I'm with Lisa Bob on this. The Patrol will have to figure it out. I have seen this and eventually it works out. Yes there needs to be a meal plan to avoid Potato Chip sandwiches. Sometimes there will be a good alternative sometimes a boy can pack his own food. If a boy packs his own food he better have a meal plan too.

 

I think the Patrol should eat together as much as possible; too many individuals packing their own food seems to increase the use of junk food for medical reasons. I have had to crack down on a few cases.

 

As a diabetic this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I used to pack all my own food but the as the rest of the adult patrol gets to know me and get educated about what works and what doesn't for me they have altered the meals to allow me to have some options. In general we have eaten healthier. So it does work.

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