This is not a school; we’re not lunch ladies

Boy, am I glad summer camp meals aren’t regulated by the U.S. government.

A story linked through the Christian Camp & Conference Association’s Foodservice Facebook page gave me a shudder. The article, from a Wisconsin newspaper, outlined some of the federally mandated changes coming to school lunches.

For instance:

Children won’t be able to decline their fruits and vegetables when the new standards for school meals are put into place. Instead of the current requirement for a mere one-half to three-fourths of a cup of fruits and vegetables combined, children will have to take three-fourths to one cup of vegetables plus one-half to one cup of fruit every day.

And they should not expect to have their preferred corn or green beans and apple slices and pear halves every day. The new guidelines require a mix of dark green and red and orange vegetables, legumes and starchy vegetables. Food service directors at area schools say they will add spinach and asparagus and even Brussels sprouts to their menus.

All this will require more money, of course. Yours and your schools.

While camp food isn’t diet food, campers, guests and staff have had few complaints about being able to build balanced meals from what we offer, and we’ve made other refinements in the last year that brought down calorie counts while holding prices steady.

We make our own pizzas so we can control toppings and cheese. We switched from ground beef to turkey in many dishes, including Ultimate Nachos, which are served with brown rice, black beans and, lately, a homemade cheese sauce that has a fraction of the ingredients as the canned glop. Homemade stocks have replaced most commercial soup bases. Milk is 1 percent. Fresh fruit is offered at lunch and dinner — and in the summer, it’s quite a variety — and salads are prepared with every dinner. We make a lot or our own breads, pasta sauces and desserts.

(There’s still bacon, but it’s a once-a-week treat. You can’t have camp without bacon. And if God didn’t want us to eat pigs, he shouldn’t have made them out of meat.)

But imagine the summer camp requiring kids to take spinach with their hot dog (notice how hot dogs are still allowed). Or put sprouts on their chicken patties (also still allowed). Or put disgusting, pasty cheap baked beans next to their fish sticks (also allowed, although not here at camp. Ick!)

We can all do better.

Our summer menus are still a blank slate; we’ll start developing them next month when retreat season slows down. But perhaps we bring back the old salad bar, if just for a weekly lunch, Perhaps we find a whole-grain pizza crust. Maybe real potatoes will replace the instant ones (which we only do for kids, I swear).

I’m open to any ideas. And thankful nobody’s forcing us to impose them.

Photo credit

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One thought on “This is not a school; we’re not lunch ladies

  1. Peg says:

    At camps (several), I’ve seen very little in the way of kids throwing out their food. They take what they want and they’re encouraged to eat what they’ve taken.

    I’ve worked at elementary schools for over 20 years. I’ve supervised lunchrooms. Kids throw out what they don’t like and believe me those garbage cans are full. Most of these kids are on the “free lunch program” funded by the Federal Gov’t. They are considered part of the statistics in “Hungry in America” and we are paying for their garbage. Sorry … I just get cranky sometimes. I need some Ultimate Nachos.

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