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Just a picky eater?

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I have a new Scout, age 11, who has an extremely limited list of foods that he "will" eat. This is not a case of "cannot" due to any kind of food allergies.


At summer camp, the scout spent at least 24 hours in the health lodge because he didn't feel well - basically because he wouldn't eat. This is NOT just a camp phenomenon. It happens at home too, as well as on troop outing. His patrol mates have tried to incorporate things he'll eat into their menu plans, but then the boy accuses them of changing the menu. It has become a point of contention within the patrol.


I've discussed this with his parents (his mom is a Ph.D. psychologist). They've had him tested and evaluated by several doctors, none of whom can find anything wrong.


Here's a list of things will eat, as dictated by the mom to our SPL:

pork (grilled)

hamburgers (but no bun or condiments)

chicken (grilled)

tomato soup




pasta (from experience, he won't eat ziti because it's a different shape)




iced tea




PBJ (grape only)

yogurt (didn't specify what kind/flavors)

(This past weekend, they did omelettes in a bag. This boy will not eat egg yolks - had to separate them - and would not add cheese, onions, ham, peppers, or anything else. At least he got some protein...)


This kid is skin and bones, tires easily, whines a lot, has trouble hiking 3 miles, and is very much about "me".


To me, this seems to be an extreme case of getting adults to cater to him. He'd rather go hungry than try to eat something that he thinks he doesn't like. Oh, yes - according to his mom, it's as much about "texture" as it is about flavor.


With that as background, here's the problem: What should we do with a boy like this on a camping trip? If we let him bring his own food, that sets precedent: why shouldn't we just let everyone take their own food?

We have summer camp again next July and a 5-day trip to Gettysburg in August. Here are my inclinations at this point:


1. Let the boy take his own food IF he can provide a written note from a medical professional (not his mother) stating that he can eat only certain foods. This would remove the argument for everyone else taking their own food. (My wife says he should still have to pay his share for the patrol menu, as at some point he likely will start dipping into everyone else's food).


2. Barring a doctor's note, let him (and his parents) know that he will not be permitted to go Gettysburg unless he can eat what everyone else eats on that trip. (Maybe the same for summer camp - it was a battle this year.) His dad is planning to go to Gettysburg because he is a huge US history buff (and can't wait to show off his knowledge).


I'd be interested to hear if any of you have run into this kind of problem before and, if so, how you handled it. Sorry for the length of the post, but it's a complex situation.

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I'll never forget the time at a camporee when we had Webelos with us...the SM was dishing up spaghetti from a huge stockpot and a young Webelos announced, "I don't eat spaghetti without parmesan cheese!"...the SM, not batting an eyelash, said, "Ok" and dumped the bowl back in the pot and said "Next!"...The kid was, to say the least, astonished. He did eat it once he realized no one cared whether he ate it or not. No one is going to starve over a weekend. From what you describe, the kid is malnourished and possibly mentally ill. There are some things Scouting can't fix.


On the other hand, your list of "permissible" foods doesn't seem that far from a typical Patrol menu anyway. The only things missing are PopTarts and Kraft mac and cheese with hot dog slices in it. ;-)



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The food list has a great variety of textures! Me thinks this little child needs to get away from mom's apron!


I would let the PL's develop their menus and if the lad eats he eats! If he doesn't oh well! This isn't Baby Sitters of America!

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"Oh, yes - according to his mom, it's as much about "texture" as it is about flavor."


She used those words? If his mom said it that way, then I would believe her. There are more than a few medical conditions where the texture of the food affect eating or swallowing. Eating disorders can also be a sign of some forms of autism. Since she chose those words, I would have no doubt that there is some sort of underlying condition that the family has, for some reason, decided not to reveal. My guess is that the family will have no problem providing you with that Doctor's note, should you choose to persist.

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This is sorta like 1 Scout in our Troop that has plenty of spending money for sugary snacks at the tradin' post, but won't eat anything the Patrol makes (no food allergies).


Goes thru the same "I don't feel good" routing in the evening and wants to home. 15 miles from home is the camp. Only so much leeway with camp food.


This year he has picked up weight and is eating his mom out of house and home, but I suspect it's sweets and pop-tarts.


IMO (I'm just an ASM & not the SM) if you can't eat a Patrol meal or stomach camp food, you should not go. You don't want to go down the "special food" route for an unskilled Scout.


That being said, I opt out of the Leader meals to cook primitively (reflector oven, fire spit, coals, etc...) or just differently as the Troop appears dependent on 40 lb. propane tanks/stoves & refrigerated food. But that food is not paid for, carried, or stored by Scouts. I also am diabetic, but to look at the items you would not know (low oil, simple ingredients) - more back-pack related example. I also use an off-road manual wheelchair to get around as I am an amputee.


In the past lip service has been given to allow Scouts who are 1st class+ the option of "opting out" of ALL (no choosies) Patrol meals in the past. They would be responsible for ALL parts of their meals to include prep, storage, cooking & washing of their dishes (no Troop consumables (coals, foil, seasoning, etc except water & wash tubs). They do NOT get out of Patrol duties. The PL is encouraged to assign any "normal task" to the Scout.

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The autism comment rang a bell with me...Asperger's maybe? If this is a legitimate medical issue, the mom should level with you. I will bend over backwards to work with a kid if it's a medical thing. But not for spoiled brats.

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He'll eat a couple of other things:

white bread (Wonder bread - all air)

raw carrots




Won't eat:

any soup other than tomato

beef stew (canned, home made, or made on site)

foil dinners (beef or chicken)

cheese (including mac 'n' cheese)

baked apples

whole-grain breads

"heavy" white breads (Kaiser rolls, etc.)


potatoes (baked or boiled)

tortilla wraps

tacos / taco salad

salad fixings (except carrots)



Of course, if the Trading Post is open, he's the first to want to go there. We've learned not to let him go buy candy & junk food if he hasn't eaten at least something reasonable...


He may not die from not eating on a weekend, but he doesn't have enough energy or strength to keep going with the rest of the guys. No food going in = no energy coming out.


I think it's a mental thing - a battle of the wills. But I think his parents aide and abet the whole issue. His dad took him to camp last Friday - boys were supposed to eat before leaving home, but he forgot. So dad had him make a PBJ. Kid wouldn't eat it because there was PB on it...! He was in tears, and dad was about ready to strangle him (figuratively).


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It is a complex situation, and I imagine very difficult to deal with.


Bagels made his list--let him eat bagels. A lot. They're heavy bread & pretty portable. (does he put anything on them?)


A person can live pretty happily on PBJ.


I wouldn't bend over backwards to accomodate without more documentation of a medical or psych disorder. I would add a loaf of bread, pb&j(grape only) to the shopping list, and if he doesn't like what's cooking, he can make his own sammich. (I do that at home w my 9yo son. "Taste it, & then you can opt out & make your own sammich.")

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We had a kid in Cubs who would only eat Burger King chicken nuggets. Our little group often met for dinner before meeting. The dad would drop the kid and his older brother off with the group, drive to Burger King and bring back nuggets for the kid. We could be at McDonald's and the dad would have to go get BURGER KING chicken nuggets for the kid.


I died on that hill my rookie year at summer camp with another kid. He only ate bread and dessert. I tried to get him to eat his veggies. Never again. As Scoutldr said, no one dies of malnutrition in a week. You don't want to eat? Don't eat. Too weak/ill to participate? Go home.


We spend a lot of time talking with the boys and their parents about this sort of thing from our first brush with the Webelos through summer camp. Except for a real special needs Scout, we expect Scouts to be able to take care of themselves. That means eating right, taking showers and going to the latrine (one year a boy refused to use the latrine because it smelled. Went the whole week without "dropping a duce." He seized up like an old Ford. No one wanted to ride home with him because they thought he would explode.) If a boy doesn't have the maturity/responsibility to take care of his basic bodily functions, maybe Boy Scouts isn't right for him.


Sounds to me like you've made reasonable accommodations. Actually, you should be proud that his patrol mates are trying to work with the kid. I don't know that the kids in my troop would. If you go to the trouble of working the kid's likes/dislikes into the menu and he still won't eat, he's just doesn't eat. We don't bring extra or make two meals to scratch one kid's itch.


Sounds like the Gettysburg trip is going to be an issue, though. No camp health lodge and no quick trip home. Having his enabler --- uh, I mean Dad along could be more of an problem than a help.


Stick to your guns. He's not the only boy in the troop. I'd consider summer camp a test run for the Gettysburg trip. If summer camp is a problem, he stays home from PA.


Sooner or later there will be something more important to him than this food thing. He will figure out that if he wants the former he will have to give up the latter. Maybe the Gettysburg trip will be it.(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)

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Without a doctor's letter detailing the need to cater to this child's self imposed diet, I would leave it up to his patrol to deal with him. Between now and next summer, it will get resolved in some way or another.


Before camp and the final prep/payment for your Gettysburg trip let the parents know that if the boy can't physically keep up at summer camp next year, you will cut him from the Gettysburg trip due to concerns over his health.


BTW, I have one of these. Tastes, textures, smells, temps, you name it. Back when my now 8 year old was 4, he literally threw up on the table every night for about a month when we finally told him he had to eat the vegetables. Cleaned it up and served more veg. He finally realized we weren't backing down and now eats the vegetables but still doesn't like them. He will not let a piece of fruit pass his lips, but I can live with that.

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We had a Scout who only ate certain things. His Italian mother catered to his desires. We explained that camp menus were what they were. His first time at summer camp, he lost a lot of weight (which he could afford). He stayed with the troop and became Eagle, but he did expand his list of things he would eat.

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Have the scout be responsible for the patrol's food. He makes a menu up, gets the shopping done and is the patrol cook. This way there is no sabotaging the menu. He could pass alot of the cooking for 2nd and 1st class but only if he eats. I don't really think it's apron strings either, it's time to cut the cord.

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Yar. A brat say I. Reminds of the kid we had who got all pushed out of shape because he hit another kid and the other kid had the audacity to hit him back! I told him that he was responsible for the incident then he had a fit and Mommy had to come pick him up. I was not going to make accomodations for him, so good riddance say I.


Based on what's been reported, I would make no accomodations for his brattiness. He learned this behavior from SOMEWHERE, eh? Trying to get attention from his genious PHD parent who doesn't spend enough time with him ( ohh, did I say that, um... shame on me!)


Word of advice. GROW UP! ( said to the parent, not the kid )


Guess I'm not in a conciliatory mood tonight.....



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