A PHILOSOPHY OF GREAT CAMP FOOD
At Ballibay we believe in real food. We cook as much as possible from scratch and source our ingredients from the wonderful farms and local companies that surround us in the bountiful Endless Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania. We also grow a meaningful portion of our produce from our own garden tended by campers and staff, on sun-drenched terraces right outside our dining hall. We know where the food we feed our campers and staff comes from, every step of the way.
We hire top chefs with excellent training and experience to provide a seasonal yet diverse and international menu. By cooking from scratch, our chefs can tailor the menu to fit your child’s dietary needs. We believe strongly that every camper should be able to participate fully in every meal every day, regardless of dietary restrictions or allergies. We therefore "deconstruct" our entrees and dishes - a tray of plain pasta with several sauces, including vegan and gluten free, various meats and sides. This allows campers to build their own entree and enjoy essentially the same meal, regardless of their dietary restrictions. We accommodate all types of food allergies and related restrictions. Please feel free to contact the office to discuss specific dietary or allergy issues with our chefs and medical staff.
Through the journey of growing food and cooking together, our staff and campers support their community and healthy relationships that last a lifetime.
Campers wishing to be involved in the food can sign up for the educational kitchen coop, where each activity period a small group of campers learns hands-on food preparation and participates in the creation of the camp's snacks and desserts. The entire camp then enjoys the fruits of their labor at snack and meal times.
Similar to the educational kitchen coop, campers may elect to help in the maintenance and harvesting of our camp garden. We grow everything from herbs to pumpkins, grapes to potatoes. Through this program campers gain an appreciation for where food comes from and how it makes it from the soil to their plate.
At least once per session the children from each cabin cook a dinner together at our outdoor campsite. Our food education staff person consults with the campers and counselors of each cabin on what foods to cook and the best techniques for a safe and delicious meal.
Our snack table is set up in the camp dining hall between meals, and is a great opportunity for campers to meet and talk with the camp chefs, and even volunteer in aspects of the camp's food preparation. Members of the camp community can do some informal food learning between meals as they talk with friends. There will often be simple jobs campers and staff can help with, such as making cookies or snapping beans. As local food maven Alice Waters notes, children try a more diverse range of foods when they are active in all stages of the cooking process. From volunteering in the garden, talking to our chefs and helping the preparation, our campers expand their palates and learn what it means to have a healthy diet.
BALLIBAY'S FOODSERVICE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES
We were thrilled to, in summer 2012, have a visit from Jan Hoffman of the New York Times. She featured us in an article on the changes taking place in camp food in the Times' Dining & Wine section. The complete article is available here: At Camp, It’s Not Grub, It’s Cuisine
WHY IS CAMP FOOD IMPORTANT?
This summer, nearly six million children will attend sleep away summer camps all over the United Staes. Each one of them will eat three meals a day at camp for his or her entire stay, so camps are responsible for providing a 5-week camper (the average length of camp stay in the US) with 100 consecutive meals plus snacks. While even the poorest school lunch program might be offset by healthy meals at home, there is no mitigating the impact of inferior summer camp food: campers eat exclusively what the camp serves, and the family’s influence on their child’s diet is effectively removed during his or her entire stay at camp.
As families take good food more and more seriously, the importance of summer camp nutrition grows. Once upon a time, inferior camp food was a joke based in truth that we were all comfortable with: bug juice, mystery meat, and sugary snacks. But in the wake of the enlightenment that is bringing food thinkers like Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, and Michael Pollan to the forefront of a national dialogue, the stale old joke of summer camp food doesn’t seem so funny. Sure, some junk food in the diet of a child is to be expected considering its proliferation in the American landscape. But 100 consecutive meals and snacks is a considerable amount of food, and it is difficult to imagine that the quality of such a sustained diet would not impact the growth and development of a young body.
The recent organizing around and legislation concerning school food was the appropriate place to start in thinking as a nation about how our children eat. But the estimated 600 million meals that will be eaten at summer camp next summer are an important next focal point of attention. Summer camp is, for a significant number of Americans, an essential part of growing up, and the portion of the population served by camping cuts across many demographics. Summer camp teaches independence in a way traditional schooling and extra-curricular activities rarely can.
Camp gives kids an opportunity to take responsibility for their choices away from the constant supervision of parents, and camp lasts long enough that kids get to see the effects of their choices and reflect on them. As a nation we are realizing that helping our children learn to make good life choices includes helping them learn to make good food choices. Because of the unique growth and learning that occurs in a camp setting, summer camps should be essential sites for the next stage in the food revolution. Summer camps are a place where we can begin feeding kids responsibly, and helping them learn to make good food choices on their own.
Summer is also a unique time to learn about eating seasonally, eating locally, and living sustainably. Tending a garden, visiting farms and meeting the people who produce our food, learning to prepare food, and learning to eat what the season and the local environment gives us are some of the wonderful opportunities that food-oriented camps can provide. Also, recycling, composting, conserving, and re-using can be a part of the day-to-day camp experience without taking time away from other fun and enriching camp experiences.