While many school districts have rules governing how a child with food allergies is dealt with in the classroom and lunchroom, camps are independent and make their own rules. Finding an appropriate camp is a process you should start in the winter. First identify parents who have dealt with similar issues and ask for referrals. Then, speak to the camp administrators. If they seem vague about food allergies or dismissive, move on. If you hear they have had campers with similar issues, and can explain in a satisfactory manner how they handled the challenges that arose, you have a keeper.
Inclusiveness is second to safety. We don't want our children to feel left out of fun activities.On my children's first day of day camp Daisie climbed into the car with a plate of decorated cookies and Rosie came in with a face made out of chocolate, sprinkles and licorice. Their baking teacher and Rosie's counselor had adapted the days activity for her in a way that was manageable for them and edible for her! I strongly recommend a necklace or bracelet with your child's food allergies/sensitivities, and your phone number for any questions. Some great companies I have found are, Lauren's Hope, Oliver's Labels and Allerbling. One year Rosie's counselor told me she frequently checked her necklace to see the list of allergens and appreciated it was there.
Sleep away camp for children with Celiac diseas or food allergies presents an entirely different level of challenges. There are sleep aways in several states that are specifically for celiac/gluten sensitive children (such as the ones started by the Celiac Sprue Association). As for food allergies, it can be more difficult if your child has respiratory reactions, and you have to count on the staff to administer emergency medicine in case of a reaction. You must thoroughly vet the administration and head cook to see if they have dealt with special dietary needs. I would never send a child to sleep away camp unless I was 100% confident the camp could handle my child's needs. Unfortunately, for some children sleep away may not be an appropriate option if such a camp can not be found.
Whatever your choices, make sure the staff is informed and can accommodate your child. Ensure your child has appropriate food on a daily basis, for day camp, and send shelf stable snacks for your sleep away child. It may also be the case that you have to send prepackaged meals and baked goods. I suggest a vacuum sealer for this purposes. It keeps food fresh and you can reheat in a microwave (slit open bag) or boil sealed in a pot of water. There are several varieties of gluten free power bars on the market (check if your camp is nut free before sending), such as Kind or Gluten Free Luna Protein Bars...a Lillie favorite (make sure the variety you buy is OK for your child's diet).
A home baked treat is always the best. If you are sending to sleep away, find out if you can send a supply of baked goods to be placed int he camp freezer. Wrap well in foil and zip top plastic bags.
I wish you a safe and happy summer!
Chloe Coscarelli came out with a second vegan cookbook this year called Chloe's Vegan Desserts. It has a most excellent selection of cakes, cookies, bars, pies and ice cream free of dairy, eggs and all other animal ingredients. Although the recipes call for wheat flour, I have successfully substituted all purpose gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum*.
These Blondies are the perfect treat in your campers lunchbox or to send in a sleep away care package. Skip the nuts if your child's camp is nut free.
1 cup all-purpose gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum*
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon dark rum or bourbon (optional)
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (dairy-free)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Pre-heat the oven to 350F degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan and line with parchment paper long enough to overhang the edges.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt until combined. Set aside. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the margarine, brown sugar, vanilla, and rum, if using, until combined. Slowly beat in the flour mixture. Once the flour mixture is incorporated, add the chocolate chips and walnuts. The batter will be thick.
Evenly pat the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Once cooled, lift the parchment paper to release the blondies from the pan and unmold. Using a sharp knife, cut into 2-inch squares and serve.
Yield: 16 bars