If you’ve ever been to camp, then you know what wacky mac is and, chances are, you get a bit of a nostalgic feeling when you pass it in supermarket aisles. You also know that bug juice is not made from bugs, s’mores are best made over a campfire, and that knish is the perfect side dish for a cookout. Campers who jumps out of bed every morning and race to breakfast, hoping that it’s chocolate chip pancakes as well as those who can’t get enough of the pizza, know that camp food is as much a part of the camp experience as the activities. Like many other camp traditions, the menus constantly evolve to meet the current demands of campers.
One major concern that is heavily influencing camp menus is the growing awareness of the importance of developing healthy eating habits early in life. Camps are introducing new menu items as well as opting for healthier versions of current ones. Items such as Greek yogurt, hummus, guacamole, and wraps are finding their way onto camp menus to combine with salad bars, which are longtime camp dining staples, to give campers and staff more nutritional options at meal times. Lite dressings are also appearing alongside regular ones and more fruit and vegetable choices are being offered. But the camp food revolution doesn’t begin and end at the camp salad bar.
Bug juice is now a lot less sugary at many camps, and some have even done away with it altogether. Camps are increasingly using olive oil instead of vegetable oil and are playing around with herb and spice combinations to enhance the taste of the food. This isn’t to say that some traditional camp favorites are disappearing off of menus. Grilled cheese, pasta, and chicken fingers are all still very much camp fare. Camps are just trying to make healthier versions of them by using fresher ingredients and fewer pre-packaged ones.
Campers are very enthusiastic about the recent trends in camp food. Today’s campers have savvy palates, and they like that favorite foods and ingredients that have traditionally not been available at camp are finding their way onto menus and that some of their favorites are getting nutritional makeovers. Meal times are important parts of camp each day. They are times for the camp to come together and dine as a family. They are times for singing, cheering, and catching up. Perhaps that why camp food is such a key part of camp.