Preparing for Camp

6 Ways to Prepare Your Camper for Meals


For as long as I can remember, there has always been a method to our food service. We serve spaghetti on the first night because it is the ultimate comfort food. Who dislikes spaghetti? After Chapel on Sundays, we enjoy a heartier Sunday dinner-type meal, reminiscent of traditional family gatherings. Back in the day, we all knew what the meal was based on the day and the point in the term. There was a time at Cheley when the meals were so scheduled that you could tell the day just by what was served. And, of course, we take pride in serving meals on real Cheley China, even though they break when dropped.

Mealtimes at Cheley are so many things wrapped up in one: an anchor, opportunity, stressor, joy, challenge, and crucial part of camp.

  1. Explain the Dining Hall Experience: Introduce your child to the dining hall setup, explaining that meals at camp are family-style. Campers sit together, pass dishes around, and serve themselves, fostering a warm, social atmosphere filled with laughter, stories, and sharing. Emphasize that mealtimes are a joyful part of camp and an important time to fuel up for the day’s activities.
  2. Talk About Trying New Foods: As a parent of a picky eater myself, I understand the challenge. However, camp offers a unique opportunity for children to try new foods. Explain that the dining hall offers a variety of options, including familiar favorites and new dishes they might not have tried before. Encourage your child to take small portions of something new and see how they like it. The relationships they build with counselors and camp friends can make trying new foods less daunting. Sometimes, a little healthy peer pressure can help, too. If you need support in this area, please let us know—we’re here to help.
  3. Discuss Mealtime Etiquette: Teach your child the basics of mealtime etiquette, such as waiting until everyone is served before eating, saying “please” and “thank you,” and being courteous when passing dishes. Practice family-style dining at home to help them become comfortable with serving themselves and portion control. Remind them they can always go back for seconds if they’re still hungry.
  4. Focus on Balanced Eating at Mealtimes: Talk to your child about the importance of balanced meals, including proteins, vegetables, fruits, and grains, for sustained energy. Let them know that camp has set mealtimes with limited snacking in between, so it’s important to eat well during meals. Encourage them to try different food options to ensure they get a variety of nutrients. While there will typically be one meal choice per meal (excluding dietary restriction options), encourage your child to try different options.  
  5. Communicate Dietary Needs: If your child has specific dietary restrictions or allergies, communicate these to our Food Services Manager beforehand. This ensures we can provide safe and suitable meal options. A cook will meet with campers with dietary needs at the beginning of the term to address any concerns.
  6. Always Talk to a Counselor: Reassure your child that counselors and dining hall staff are available to help with any questions or concerns about the food or mealtime experience. Encourage them to speak up if they need assistance or have any issues.

By discussing these points with your child, you can help them approach mealtimes at camp with confidence and enthusiasm. We strive to create a welcoming and supportive dining experience at Cheley, where your child can enjoy delicious meals and make lasting memories with friends. We’re looking forward to sharing these special moments with your family.