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How We Became an Allergy-Friendly Camp

Special thanks to Camp Wingate*Kirkland for supporting our educational blog series on managing food allergies at camp. This post is the third in a three-part series.

Sandy Rubenstein, owner and director of Camp Wingate*Kirkland (Camp W*K) on Cape Cod, Mass., writes about managing food allergies at camp.

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Kids with food allergies can sometimes be identified by their allergy: “He’s the peanut-free kid,” “She’s the one allergic to milk.” In our opinion, these classifications are isolating and can be demeaning. Stereotyping a child by their food allergy can greatly impact the confidence of a child.

By creating an allergy-friendly camp, we had two goals in mind: to create a place for kids to feel safe and not have to worry about their allergies and to teach the importance of having empathy and understanding among kids that don’t have allergies.

Camp W*K has been a peanut-, tree nut- and sesame-free camp for over 10 years. Since then, campers and staff alike have embraced our allergy-friendly policies and are supportive. We have seen kids rally around their friends, being inclusive and looking out for their friends with food allergies.

The key to our success is education, information and sticking to the rules. Once we made the decision to be an allergy-friendly camp, we had to be very black and white about enforcing it. The rules apply to everyone: campers, staff and even the directors. We don’t make any exceptions and we don’t allow our policies to be grey.

Our kitchen, health center and office staff participate in regular trainings and information sessions to keep them up-to-date on all of the possible allergens and potential for cross-contact. Staff is trained to read every label, even if it is a product that we have used before.

At Camp Wingate*Kirkland we strive to create a safe environment for our campers with food allergies, comparable to what they experience in their own homes. We want them to just be kids! We want them to feel confident and secure that our chef and the whole kitchen staff know all of their food allergies and would never put them in any harm. Additionally, that they feel supported and secure throughout camp.

For parents selecting a camp for a child with food allergies, it’s important to understand that the rules (no nuts, no sesame, etc.) should apply to the entire camp facility. It’s not enough that the kitchen and dining halls are allergy-friendly. The rules need to extend to the program areas, bunks, office, health center and even on out-of-camp trips!

We could not be more pleased with our decision to become a food allergy friendly camp more than a decade ago. It is well worth the extra training and time to bring a great camp experience to kids with food allergies.

This blog series is made possible through a gift from Camp Wingate*Kirkland.

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Camp Wingate*Kirkland is a co-ed, residential and day camp located on Cape Cod for campers ages 7-15. Camp Wingate*Kirkland is peanut-, tree nut- and sesame-free and welcomes campers with all food allergies.

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