The atmosphere in the dining room is electric. High energy, positive vibes and fabulous music all nourish the campers’ souls while they are also happily nourishing their bodies. It is a place where I encourage the campers to go outside their comfort zones and taste new foods or even choose foods they know and like but may look different from the version they are used to at home.
Camp Mesorah promotes a healthy food culture. I created an environment where it is cool to “eat the rainbow.” It is cool to choose a protein at each meal. It is cool to ask questions about healthy eating, about eating for energy. It is cool to create a balanced plate selected from the nutritious offerings.
In addition to being present in the dining room at every meal, I also teach nutrition workshops where we cover a variety of topics, such as how to incorporate healthier food into everyday life, how to create balance in our lives with food but also with stress-management techniques, eating for energy and eating to feel good. In my workshops the campers also learn healthy recipes that they can re-create at home.
These lessons learned in summer camp are meant to be carried over during the year into everyday life. Teaching campers and staff to make food choices that work for them imparts knowledge that they can benefit from for the rest of their lives. The campers learn how to make food choices that work for them and that create adults who are mindful of the choices they are making. It’s a powerful skill set that comes along with a feeling of responsibility and ownership.
Campers are also able to see the results of the choices that they made in the dining room. A well-nourished camper plays harder on the fields and has more energy to enjoy the amazing activities programming.
Campers are greeted every morning with a full breakfast bar that contains yogurt, granola and multi-colored fruit. In addition to cereal and milk daily, there is also a fresh hot dish that alternates between eggs, French toast, waffles, pancakes and bagels.
Once again lunch features an incredible salad bar where the theme is always “eat the rainbow!” I teach the campers that each color of fruit and vegetable provides our bodies with different nutrients, vitamins and minerals and therefore it is important to eat five different colors of the rainbow every single day!
The salad bar options include greens (lettuce, sometimes spinach), multi-colored peppers, shredded carrots, purple cabbage, pickles, olives, hearts of palm, avocado, string beans and roasted rainbow vegetables. There are many protein options: tuna salad, hard boiled eggs, chickpeas and beans.
With a variety of dressings and fun salad toppings our campers head directly to the salad bar to check out the daily options. There is a kid-friendly main dish such as pizza, baked ziti, macaroni and cheese, fettuccine and fried fish.
Dinner is a popular meal at camp because we have so many filling delicious options. From a nightly soup served with schnitzel to shawarma, spaghetti and meatballs, Chinese chicken and weekly BBQs, the creativity of our chef is endless.
The healthy food culture of Camp Mesorah does not end in the dining room. The culinary workshop led by Lacey Kalb and Sharon Frier practically demonstrates the “farm to table” approach. The campers pick organic vegetables and herbs grown in our very own Mesorah garden and use them right away to create healthy dishes and snacks. They have even used eggs from our chickens!
Campers with food allergies and sensitivities know that they are safe in our dining room. I coordinate with the chef to ensure that those whose diet is gluten free, dairy free or vegetarian and who have allergies are able to safely eat delicious food. I am in the dining room at all meals and the campers and staff know that they can come to me with any questions or concerns.
This note that I received the last day of camp (on a paper plate!) really sums up our campers’ experience in the dining room.
Dear Coach Gila,
Thank you so much for all you have done for me this summer. It’s not only that you made sure I had something to eat at each meal, it’s your smile and kindness that really mattered. You are amazing!
With much appreciation,
I do work with campers privately during the summer; if you’d like to set up a consultation please be in touch. Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns—I can be reached at [email protected]
By Coach Gila