Calling All Gluten-Free Summer Camps

celiac friendly summer camps

Dude note: If you have not seen the classic movie Meatballs, 1) shame on you and 2) some of the references in the post will make absolutely no sense to you.

Summer is around the corner and that means parents are scrambling, looking for ways to get rid of their kids for the summer. I mean, they’re looking for ways to enhance their child’s life. That means only thing: summer camp. Food, fun, games, new friendships, life lessons. What could be better? Well…for those kids with celiac disease, it throws a major monkey wrench into things.

“It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter.”

Sure it matters. Three meals a day plus snacks? It totally matters. But if there were summer camps that could completely accommodate those with celiac disease?

“Attention. Here’s an update on tonight’s dinner. It was veal. I repeat, veal. The winner of tonight’s mystery meat contest is Jeffrey Corbin who guessed ‘some kind of beef.’ ”

Believe me…there are camps out there that do food right. And celiac friendly? Is it really possible to keep the kids safe in this atmosphere? Here is how the NJY Camps handle it:

NJY Camps in Milford, PA has a dedicated, GIG certified, gluten-free kitchen which we opened in 2011. The difference between our camp program and other Celiac camp programs is we also have a main stream kitchen. In other words children with Celiac can attend our camp with their non-Celiac friends and family. We have two separate serving areas. When the camper’s table is called the campers go to whichever line they need. The Gluten-free line is supervised by an adult who has Celiac. She knows everything about each child and staff who come to her line including what other allergies ( eggs, nuts, dairy) that they may have. Our staff go through a whole training on the dining room which includes a part on food allergies and gluten-free. Menus are matched so if its pizza, they get gluten-free pizza. There is a separate salad bar. The whole line is in a totally separate area so there can be no cross contamination.

As for the rest of our camp program, the cooking activity is gluten-free so anyone can sign up. Campers going out for athletic or swim meets have their meals prepared in the gf kitchen. Last summer we served over 75 campers and staff.

We run 6 family camp weekends over the course of the summer. One is a specifically GF family weekend, which this year is June 10-12, 2016. It is in partnership with the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University who supply medical staff for sessions in the.morning if parents wish to attend.

Read more about the program here.

That’s how they handle it. Pretty cool, right? While I cannot personally vouch for them, they seem to be taking all of the proper precautions and doing it in a way where the kids do not feel different.

“Attention all campers, it’s 9:30… and that’s lights-out time here at Camp Northstar, 9:30 as you know. Tomorrow is parents day, and you must look rested or Morty will be sent to the state penitentiary.”

The questions is…are there other camps around the world that offer a safe zone for those kids with celiac? I have not done the research. In my defense, it’s out of pure laziness.

So do you run a celiac-camp? Have you attended a celiac-safe camp? Are you aware of any celiac-safe camps? Do you have a second cousin on your mom’s side who has a friend, whose sister has celiac and has been to a safe camp? I WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT.

“Attention. Bus for the Camp Mohawk basketball game leaving in 15 minutes, and there is a very fat pair of pants hanging on the flagpole this morning.”

Please leave a comment below and let us know what you know. No kid should miss out on summer fun because of a stupid autoimmune disease.

Believe me Tripper…it matters:

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31 thoughts on “Calling All Gluten-Free Summer Camps”

  1. Both of my kids attended the NJY camp you write about. They both have celiac, and they both had a fantastic experience all three years. Their first summer there was the first summer after my son’s diagnosis. The camp played a huge role in showing him that he could lead a normal life and be a normal kid even with celiac.

    He also attended the Dartmouth Debate Institute last summer (yes it’s a camp, it just sounds like a college). He was safe and healthy there. The dining hall there has a dedicated gluten free area, which you can only use if you have met with the school dietitian. They also offered to let him order other food, off the regular menu, that they would prepare just for him. He was so happy with the gluten free zone that he never took them up on that option.

    1. Ah, sadly they do not seem to accept children with other food issues. My son has multiple severe food allergies in addition to celiac. We will keep looking, but this camp (Camp Celiac) does look great for those “lucky” enough to “only” have celiac. : )

    2. For the past two years, My 12 year old loves and looks forward to Camp Celiac. The staff are amazing and the woodsy/ lake setting offer a beautiful camp experience.

    3. For the past two years, our 12 year old loves and looks forward to Camp Celiac. The staff is amazing and the location on a lake provides a beautiful and active camping experience.

    1. THANK YOU! I’ve heard about Wildwood but never knew about this GF option. This is amazing! I’m going to check it out for my daughter!

  2. I’m GF and work in the summer camp industry, so I eat where I work. At the camps I work for, I can personally attest to the procedures. For example, separate cooking spaces and separate kitchen staff who’s ONLY job it is to prepare the allergy free meals. We don’t just deal with GF kids but all kinds of allergies. I have never once gotten sick.

  3. Hope this is ok, not mean to be a promotional post but here are the camps I work for that can handle CD and any other food allergy. Three are sleep-away camps in NY & PA. One is a day camp in Westchester County, NY.

    We have a number of children and staff with major (anaphylaxis) and minor food (mild reaction) allergies. I’m one of the staff with CD and I trust the procedures (I helped create them) and the kitchen staff as I know them personally.

  4. My kids have attended the “Great Gluten Escape” for 4 years and LOVE it! Located outside Dallas, TX and 100% gluten free. The kids get to swim, canoe, sing camp songs, make s’mores, crafts, zip-lining, hiking, mountain biking, etc….just normal camp stuff….while eating the most delicious gluten free food for a whole week. Check out their website or FB page. We <3 GGE!

  5. I’m the Celiac Mom who runs the gf kitchen at NJY Camps. When my son was diagnosed 4 years ago I was thrilled that i could continue to send him to the camp he was already attending. Now he is now also on staff. Last summer he worked in the cooking shop which prepares only gluten free foods. We don’t only prepare 3 safe gluten free meals a day but we also make sure the campers have snacks and special treats. We even have signs at the canteen letting campers know what is safe. I can vouch for NJY. I eat there as has my son for the past four summers I cant imagine a more powerful testimonial.

  6. I’ve spent the last two summers working at Beartooth Christian Camp in Montana. They make great accommodations for those of us with celiac and other food allergies.

  7. We live in the Cincinnati area and my kids have gone many summers to the Springhill camp in Seymore IN. My son went the first summer after he was diagnosed and had a wonderful experience. Being a new Celiac mom, I called and talked through the way they handled special diets/food allergies. I was very comfortable with their procedures and Jacob had a wonderful time. It has been a few years since my kids have gone, but I hear it is still a great camp for anyone with food allergies or special dietary needs.

    1. I am in Boston too, and the closest I have found is Camp Celiac in RI and that is just one week in the summer. If you hear of something else, please let me know!

  8. Hello! I have Celiac Disease and I am the Camp Nurse for The Great Gluten Escape at Gilmont in Gilmer, Texas. Camp Gilmont is a Certified Gluten Free Camp and offers GF meals at all events, but each year we have a week of ALL GF food called The Great Gluten Escape. Friends, cousins, brothers, sisters are all welcome for the week of great gluten free food!!

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