Food for Thought: Allergies at Summer Camp
If you’re the parent of a child with food allergies, I’m betting that you prepare all of her meals. You do this so that you know her meals will be safe. Class trips, sleepovers and parties make you very nervous, right? And summer camp, well, that’s never been possible … but what if it was?!
Summer camp is an opportunity for independence and growth. Whether it’s a local day camp or an overnight program, camp is a place where kids can be carefree and indulge in laughs and friends.
Summer camps are in the business of keeping up with kids and supporting families. They are well aware that there are an increasing number of children with food allergies. You’ll find many places that will work hard to listen to your needs and to prepare your child’s food safely.
To ensure the program is right for you and your child, make a list of requirements and questions. There are plenty of things to keep in mind. Ask if they’ve ever handled children with food allergies. Some camps will expressly talk about their support and have a kitchen staff professionally trained in cross contamination and segregated food preparation.
Get a copy of the camp menu and discuss substitutions. Find out who would handle your child’s food, and if you haven’t already, teach him to read food labels. When you speak with the camp director, get names of campers with food allergies that have been to the camp. Learn about their EpiPen policy, staff training, medical staff, emergency plans and communication.
Your input is critical to a successful experience. Give the program a copy of your Food Allergy Action Plan. Make sure they have up-to-date medical records, medication and a history of any reactions. Tell the camp about your child’s typical meals and offer to provide food if needed. It’s also a good idea to visit the camp ahead of time with your child to review how it will all work.
Ask a lot of questions and, only if you are satisfied, take the step to send your child to camp. While you are worried about your child, remember she is also nervous. One of the most important things you can do is to tell her that you have confidence that the camp will prepare her food just like you would and she will be safe. Conveying your trust is key to her success.
A positive camp experience will mean so much to your child but also to you. Knowing that you can trust someone to care for your child can be the first step toward future independence. There comes a day when all parents let go of their children. With food allergies, you may have thought that would come much later, but why not now? It would mean so much to your child and to you!