After returning from my two weeks abroad, I worked the remaining weeks of the summer as a camp counselor at a local Girl Scout Day Camp. Since the campers pack their own lunches, I did not realize that food allergies would become as much of an issue as they were, but alas, my knowledge became very useful as my fellow counselors and I dealt with various campers.
On the Friday before each new week of camp, each counselor was given an hour to work with their co-counselor to plan activities for the upcoming week. One of the requirements that we had to fulfill for each week’s schedule was making two snacks every week. During our planning hour, we received a roster with the number of campers we had as well as any pertinent health information about the campers. This roster would list any allergies that campers had put on their medical forms. When we were choosing which theme-related snacks we wanted to make during the following week, it was great to know these restrictions up front. Since I was one of two counselors with allergies, many of the other counselors would ask me for advice in choosing which foods they could use so that their campers with allergies could be included. It was a great advocacy experience for me, and it really increased the respect that I had for the camp counselors that I had as a child who didn’t hold me back due to my allergies.
One of the hardest parts about camp was the fact that we never knew what supplies we would have until the day of. So, sometimes we did not necessarily get what we needed on our supply request form. During Nature Explorers week, we were making a bird’s nest snack where we stacked pretzel sticks, held them together with chocolate, and placed three jelly beans inside as the eggs. Now I had a girl with a nut allergy this week which I recorded on the form, but the jumbo jelly beans we got said that they “may contain traces of peanuts”, so we did not give them to the allergic child as a safety precaution. She was pretty upset about being left out, and the next day at drop off, her mom handed me a note that basically said “thank you for your concern for my child, but she can eat things that say may contain and I don’t want you excluding her from getting snacks all week”. This situation was really frustrating for me, and luckily all future snacks for the week had no issues. I spoke to the camp director about this incident and we discussed making a change to the allergy form that the campers submit for next year, and in the meantime, making sure that the foods we are given are completely free from any potential cross-contact for the allergic girls each following week.