Food allergies at summer camp

My daughter, Lizzie, had a wonderful experience at Camp Wood YMCA and can’t wait to go back! My husband and I were initially concerned about sending her. We knew she’d have a good time and make new friends…but Lizzie has food allergies.
— Joanna O'Malley, mother to camper, Lizzie, who has a peanut allergy
Lizzie, second from right, getting into the songs at opening campfire during Mini-Camp in 2016.

Lizzie, second from right, getting into the songs at opening campfire during Mini-Camp in 2016.

For many families of a child with food allergies, new environments can be a source of anxiety. Summer camp can be especially worrisome since your child is eating meals and living with others—often far from home. How do you balance the need to keep your child with allergies safe while still allowing them to be independent and experience the joys of summer camp?    

Our staff have prepared the following information for parents of children with food allergies as they consider sending their child to Camp Wood YMCA for the first time.

How do I make camp aware of my child’s food allergies?

The first step to notifying camp about food allergies is to complete the medical form required for registration. This information is reviewed each week and information about dietary needs is communicated to Cheryl, our Dining Services Director, who then plans meals accordingly. Cheryl takes her duties to protect children very seriously and reads every ingredient label for every food item. If there is any question about an ingredient and how it may affect an allergic camper, she opts not to use it.

Food allergy information is also communicated to our registered camp nurse, who oversees the medical care and treatment of all campers. Our nurse is on camp 24 hours a day and carries any medicines necessary to treat children experiencing allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock. Please feel free to visit with the nurse during check-in about any remaining concerns you may have about your child’s allergies.

In addition to completing the medical form and visiting with the camp nurse, feel free to share information about your child’s allergies with his or her cabin counselors during check-in. Since children eat together with their cabin in the dining hall, cabin counselors should be aware of any food allergies and know the symptoms your child exhibits during an allergic reaction. Many of our counselors are returning staff members and will have cared for children with food allergies in prior summers.

What safeguards does camp take to protect children with food allergies?

Camp Wood YMCA takes the safety of children with food allergies very seriously. In addition to the precautions mentioned above, all food consumption is restricted to the dining hall with the exception of campout night, when food is prepared in the dining hall and then eaten at the campsites. Camp meals are not allowed to contain peanuts or peanut products and when an ingredient states it may have come from a facility containing peanut products, alternative ingredients are used for allergic children. No food is allowed in the cabins and, with the exception of the outdoor cooking skillbuilder, food is also prohibited in all programs areas.

Due to these food restrictions, summer camp is in many ways a safer environment for children with food allergies than most public places where food is nearly always present.

We wanted to be sure Lizzie would be safe eating away from home. After visiting with Camp Wood and learning the lengths they go for their campers’ safety, we felt comfortable. Lizzie was able to experience camp and make wonderful memories!
Lizzie, far left, getting to know her cabin counselor and new friends.

Lizzie, far left, getting to know her cabin counselor and new friends.

 We hope sharing a little about Camp Wood YMCA’s precautions and procedures concerning food allergies has helped ease your anxiety about sending your child to summer camp. But we know that there are many types of allergies and that you may still have some concerns. If you have further questions about summer camp and your child’s food allergies, please feel free to contact our Summer Program Director, Melissa, at (620) 273-8641 or via email at summer@campwood.org. She’ll be happy to visit with you about your child’s needs!