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Frustrated/Upset with Council RE: Food @ Camp

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I do have a few bags of shelf-stable chicken.


The flavored items usually have wheat and/or dairy in them.


All the Knorr brand products I've ever looked at contained gluten and/or dairy, although I admit I haven't looked at them all. If I had more time, I could probably spend a few days sitting in a grocery store reading labels, but I really don't have that kind of time.


If we're allowed to bring a camp stove, I think we'll be OK.


And yes, we're 3 out of 200 people, which is exactly why I was trying so hard to come up with a solution that would require absolutely NOTHING from the camp staff or facilities.

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Ok, I looked up all their stuff on their website and read the ingredients lists...


None of the dried Knorr products (soups, side dishes) are wheat and dairy free except for the "Long Grain & Wild Rice" Sidekick dish. And no local store around here carries the Sidekick line as near as I can tell.


All their sauces, gravies, and soups, which are available locally, have either wheat or dairy or both in them.


I think my son can probably manage... miserably... on rice, rice noodles, and pouches of chicken for a week, but I hope they'll have enough adults to cover for the week because I won't be able to go unless they'll waive their "no fuel" rule and allow me a camp stove. If my son gets sick because of a poor diet at camp, he'll recover. But I just can't afford to not eat healthy food for a week right now.


If I had more time, I could order plenty of stuff on Amazon. But it's too late for that now.

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I have done enough week long camping trips to know that frozen food, and a gallon jug filled with water and frozen, will keep a week if fragile perishables are eaten first, and additional ice is added periodically. You don't need space in their fridge. Since you can not use their kitchen to cook, supplying your own camp stove, is a very reasonable special needs accommodation (much more reasonable than requesting an RV).


Since the camp staff is being so unhelpful, your SE/CE is the person to talk to. Remind him that the Special Needs form was sent in more than a month before the camp week, but that THEY misfiled it.


Attending a dinning hall camp with, little accommodation for special dietary needs, instead of a patrol cooking camp with more flexibility, seems to have been a wholly ADULT decision. These are not Cub Scouts. The boys should have had a say in the camp, their food, and the accommodations made for them.


Since the dinning hall staff can not cook their meals for them, I suggest the two Scouts sit down and decide which merit badges they need to drop in order for them (not you) to have enough time to make their meals. Meals do not take all day to prepare. If the Scouts do a bit of prep time on their food before camp, they should be able to put a meal together in 45 min or less. Still leaving PLENTY of time for summer camp stuff.


As for the Scout who does not like being different, he is going to have to learn that he IS different, and trying to act otherwise can get him very sick in the best situation.


Next year the Scouts in the Troop might look into camps that do not have dinning hall meals.


BTW, I have camped with kids who are vegetarians, have serious nut allergies, and folks who have allergies to both gluten and corn products. Just try to find stuff in the grocery store that does not have corn syrup in it! They taught their kids from a VERY young age to read all labels in the store. Somehow, even with checking product labels, shopping for camp did not take days, just an hour or two. The same as it takes me to do our regular family shopping.


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You are right that this whole thing would be solved if it were a camp set up for the campers to cook their own meals. Unfortunately, NONE of our Council's camps are set up like that. They are all dining-hall based.


I agree that the kid who is afraid to stick out because he's different needs to grow up and take it. It's not as if the other kids are going to pick on him. He actually just earned Eagle this year and is the SPL and easily the most popular kid in the troop. I'm a little floored by the "I don't want to be a bother" attitude he has, except that I think it's really coming from his mom.


It won't take days to shop if I or the kids can have access to a way to cook. The problem comes trying to find all ready-to-eat meals for an entire week. Gluten-free by itself is probably doable, especially since I've been doing gluten-free cooking for three years now and have it down pretty well. It's the combination of gluten and dairy free that I'm still trying to figure out, as my son was just diagnosed with these two problems fairly recently. Again, for meals we actually cook at home, it's not a problem; and we have some staples that can get him through a weekend of camping.


If we throw balanced nutrition to the wind we can make it work, and I think that's just what we'll have to do. Again, I can't afford to do that right now, but my son probably can. Left to their own devices teenagers rarely eat a balanced diet anyway.


I cooked up 3 lbs of ground beef tonight and divided it into half a dozen ziplock freezer bags and stuck them in the freezer. That will get real boring real quick but it will serve the purpose and I think he can fit that much in the freezer. I can send microwavable "rice bowls" to eat with the ground beef, and Pad Thai kits and rice-based ramen-like noodles for lunch, and cereal and almond-milk for breakfast, and he'll survive for the week if he wants to eat the same meal every day. I'll toss in a can of Manwich sauce for variety one night to mix with his beef, and a can of refried beans and a bag of corn chips for another night... and in theory they should have fruit and vegetables at camp to include. If they have room in the freezer for it I can send a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter as well. Gluten-free bread has almost no shelf life so it really has to stay frozen.


I think he'll be in California where I can get a hold of him sometime tomorrow. I left a text for his youth pastor to have him call me as soon as they get across the border. We'll see whether he's managing his diet well enough on his two-week work trip to Mexico so he will feel like he can take one more week of crappy food before he gets a real meal or if he just wants to come home. Since the council really screwed up with the paperwork, I'm not going to take "no" for an answer on a refund if he decides their piddly excuse for an accommodation isn't good enough. At least I can have a nice birthday dinner waiting for him at home since his birthday is the last day of camp. I think he deserves a gluten-free cake and some non-dairy ice cream after that.

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When it comes to campgrounds next year, look outside your council. We have 2 councils from other states with camps in our state, and some camps out of state where still only a 1 1/2 to 3 hour drive (If your in the middle of Texas maybe not, but they still should have neighboring councils within the state.)


Depending on the size of your troop, you might just put them in shock when you go out of council for camp. I know we did our council, they bent over backwards trying to get us to change our minds. Thing was it was the boys decision to try something different. We were not going to make an adult decision against it. But, it shocked us at the fear they had that we were going to do such a thing, and that other troops might follow suit.


Your council may be more accomidating in future years if you do that. If you are a troop of 5 or 6 boys maybe not. But if a troop of 25 or more, they will get the message. Of course I am basing this on my councils reaction. But, our council has very nice camps and many outside of council troops come to them. We were very shocked by their reaction. For two months we got phone calls from everyone at council.. Begging, pleading, promising all sort of "extras", how could they change the program for us.. In the end they even resorted to threatening things like loss of our annual designated campsite and other things.

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I don't think there's any need for messages with accusatory tones to them. This is a legit problem and the camp folks screwed up by a) losing the paperwork and b) being totally unaccommodating. While the poster and the boys in question do only account for a small percentage of camp customers, when you look at this from a camp management perspective and you consider that more people these days have complicated dietary needs, this cannot be an unheard of, or unique, situation. In fact I bet there are probably a handful of people with these same problems who attend camp in every session.


I know when I was organizing things for my son's troop a couple of years back, the kitchen manager told me this sort of thing comes up EVERY WEEK at camp, and also daily in school kitchens, restaurants, and convention/conference venues where feeding large crowds is common. Their take was that anybody running a large kitchen in 21st C. America needs to know how to work with this sort of thing, just part of the job, no big deal. The days of offering extra PB&J as the only alternate food are long gone.


Liz, it sounds like you've worked through numerous attempts at being reasonable, although I'm in agreement with others that an RV isn't a very good solution given the nature of scout camp (and its extreme visibility). A small camp stove, though, is entirely reasonable.


So I agree that you should now contact your council's Scout Executive. Explain the problem and the lack of accommodation that you have received, in the most matter-of-fact and reasonable tone possible. Explain what a minimal (no RV) accommodation might mean and how you can make it work with limited hassle for anyone involved. Tell him or her you need to hear back ASAP about what the camp **will** allow you to do (not simply what they **won't** do), pronto, so you can plan around that. See what happens.





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My troop does not attend our local council's camp because of too many problems concerning patrol-method vs. mess hall as just one issue.


If this is a concern, as many have said go with a camp that does not have a mess hall and prepare food in your campsite.


Refrigeration? All RV refrigerators are designed to run off of propane. Otherwise, we've done the cooler/ice for years. Yes, I have camped for 2 weeks in a camper that does not have a refrigerator only an ice-box. It works.


Otherwise, have the boys do summer camp using self-prepared backpacking menus that don't require refrigeration. One won't even have to limit oneself to lightweight because you can haul in the food in your trailer.


The camp we finally found and our boys fell in love with allows the boys to plan all their meals by patrol, box them up, i.e. Monday-Breakfast-Eagles, Monday-Lunch-Eagles, etc. That way when they come up to the commissary to pick up food, they are handed the box of food for the meal. This way refrigeration is not a problem because all the commissary food is kept at proper temperature anyway.


With the ease of Internet searching, I'd start looking for a new camp next year and get one that has NO dining hall, NO kitchen, expects in site-cooking, and provides an option to bring your own food.


It works, we found one, and we're heading there this Sunday!



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As a former camp manager, I find this deplorable behavior on the part of the council. Special requests for food that require the boy to cook his own or be separated from the group because of his needs I frankly call professional hazing.


Gluten and dairy free is not hard to do in a camp kitchen. During my last summer, we had at least two kids per week and we both worked with our food service provider *and* accommodated special trips to Trader Joe's to make sure the boys and parents had what they needed.


What did, help, though, was a special call to the kitchen staff by the moms (gotta love over protective moms sometimes!), who made sure the cook was aware (she was), and I even called the parents to assure them their needs would be met.


I'm sorry this happened for these boys. They are paying for camp, to have food provided, and shouldn't be penalized for their needs.

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If you don't get anywhere today with the food service director, go right over his head and call the camp or reservation director - the man or woman who is in charge of the entire operation, both the business and program sides. This may be a different person from the ranger (probably is). You may want to have your SM or ASM call for you, as they're probably known to the CD.

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Yah, I'm with jhankins, eh?


We're in da camp business, and dealing with food allergies in a supportive and understanding way is a part of da camp business. In fact, dependin' on the state I expect that it's a feature of law or regulation, and the camp is in violation.


From what you're reporting, I think you're not gettin' da right answers because yeh either aren't talkin' to the right people or you're taking written "policy" too seriously. All camps these days seem to multiply "policy" like a bad case of da trots.


So... deep breath. Relax. Give the camp director or camp ranger a call, explain what's up, ask for help. Could be the ranger will give yeh some space in his fridge. Could be the camp director can let yeh use the kitchen on the sly, or the chef could. Could be that the chef can just do a gluten-free thing on the side for you. If yeh want, drop da "I guess I'll need to talk to the Scout Executive about why you're not in compliance with the state camp licensing rules" bombshell, but only if yeh absolutely need to.


Or just set up to cook in the campsite. Honestly, I don't know any camps that prohibit propane burners in camp, I think that's just nuts. A few still prohibit the gasoline backpack stoves, but more on paper than in reality. I wouldn't even ask permission, I'd just do it. Yeh can go to a local ice cream shop or food supplier and get a bunch of dry ice for relatively little cash, which will keep things in a sealed cooler frozen for several days, then supplement with regular ice for the rest of the week.


The camp staff should be more helpful, but yeh should also be able to work with a few folks and get around this thing without a whole lot of grief.


As an aside, though, this is somethin' about da BSA culture that makes me nuts sometimes. In da evaluation of our employees we place so little emphasis on service that yeh often see this kind of odd slavish adherence to (often fictional) "policy" contrary to common sense and our proper role under da Oath and Law. Had some stern conversations with folks over da years on stuff like this. :mad:



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Hi Liz... I am sorry for your complications.


Anyone know if the camp kitchen/commissary/dining service is "Council" run or a "contractor"? That may make a difference in the kitchen attitude. Poor service equals no contract...


let's see, food concerns.....what I have seen or heard of....

gluten free, lactose intolerant, diabetic, vegan, vegetarian, nut allergies, shellfish allergies, hallal, Kosher (same thing? some say yea some nay), strawberry allergy, egg allergy, nitrates,,,,,

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Beavah - That's one heck of an angry face, eh? ;)


Part of my point earlier, which I may not have expressed well, is that the paperwork clearly got lost, which suggests that it probably didn't get a full, reasonable review by knowledgeable people. If I were a harried council staff member, probably not familiar with food service rules & regs, in the middle of the chaos that is summer camp and saw a letter requesting that an RV be parked at camp, I'm not sure I'd have read much further, honestly. An RV has no place at summer camp, and the OP has acknowledged that an RV may be overkill.


I've never, ever heard of a no-propane rule at any summer camp, and I wonder if that's somehow been misinterpreted by the council staff. That would prevent almost every troop I know from hauling in those ubiquitous ugly, heavy car-camping lanterns.


There are both alternatives for the campers involved and accomodations that the camp should make. But both sides need to come together to reach an agreement. If the camp simply does not have sufficient room in its fridge or freezer to store a lot of food, it would seem reasonable to me for them to rent a mini-fridge, for example. But it would also be helpful if the OP could develop a menu that minimizes refrigeration needs.


I know the clock is ticking, but there appear to be a number of summer camp programs that specialize in offering gluten-free foods, some sponsored by various state celiac disease groups. The no-dairy restriction may complicate things, but I'm sure they could offer up some innovative menu ideas suitable to a camp environment. A list: http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/raisingaglutenfreechild/tp/SummerCamps.htm

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Another thing that comes to mind with the fridge situation is that the fridge is "Full" due to buying the food for the entire week.. That means by mid-week it is half empty and by end of week very empty..


So a camp cooler to keep stuff for a day or two is good. By the time the ice needs to be restocked, it should not have to be because there should be room in the fridge for two boys for the rest of the week because 300 other people have eatten at least 1/3 of their meals for the week from it.

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If your council camps do not have the option for Patrol cooking at the camp site, look at other council camps. Going out of state could be a great adventure. Also, in-council does not necessarily mean actually in your council boundaries. You just might find an out-of-council camp that is in your area, and closer to you than your in-council camps.


While pre-cooking meat is fine, you can just cut up raw meat and freeze it. It will take a bit longer on the cooking end, but save time on the prep end. Utilize BOTH Scouts home freezers. BOTH Scouts should be working on finding foods for their meals. Why "throw nutrition to the wind"? Why stay with pre-packaged stuff? Who needs sauces? Instead of rice bowls, pack some boxes of instant brown rice. Freeze bags of chicken, and beef, chunks. Even freeze some boneless chicken breasts in a ziplock bag with olive oil, cider vinegar, and spices. Bags of frozen veggies work well, help keep the cooler cool, and are still good even when they get a bit defrosted. Bring a bag of potatoes, and some cans of tomatoes, and some canned fruit (to add to the chicken and rice). Freeze the bread, and keep it in the cooler. Take out a few slices to thaw a bit while making sandwiches for lunch. As I said, use the more perishable stuff first, and leave the more stable stuff for later in the week. You are also not restricted to backpacking food. You can haul heavier, bulkier, foodstuffs with you. That alone helps open your options. There is even shelf stable soy milk (gross, but it works for my daughter).


What you need to bring depends largely on what the camp already has in stock. Remember, you have already paid for meals, so you are entitled to the parts that you CAN eat (I would mention this to the SE when you talk to him about your special needs accommodations).


You should be able to have nutritious meals, fairly easily, without breaking the bank, utilizing coolers, camp stoves, dinning hall food, and supplemental food from home. As for your condition, check with your doctor, but the meals should be fine, and if you take your prenatal vitamins, I don't see why you should have a problem.





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