No S’more – Food Ethics at Summer Camp


The NY Times Dining Section reported today about the havoc that summer camp food can wreak on kids’ health. Tara Parker-Pope wrote:

“[My 9-year old daughter's] camp is typical of those around the country: days packed with archery, swimming and adventure climbing; menus packed with soft drinks, burgers, chicken nuggets and, once a week, cheese fries… ‘Camp food is terrible,’ said Susan B. Roberts, director of the energy metabolism laboratory at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. ‘The problem is that they are doing what is easiest — the lowest common denominator for what kids like, and on top of that usually it has to be not something that goes bad and is no work to prepare.’”

Meanwhile, although they will likely continue to offer grilled cheese and potato chips this summer, it seems that BBYO is not settling for the lowest common denominator when it comes to the meat served at their summer camps. The Jewish youth organization put out a statement urging camp partners to avoid using Agriprocessors products.

Read BBYO’s statement below:

Camp Food is No Joking Matter
BBYO Teens Demand Agriprocessor-Free Camp Programs

As a result of the allegations of intolerable injustices at Agriprocessors, the largest producer of kosher meat and poultry in the U.S., BBYO takes major stand by asking its various camp partners to avoid serving Agriprocessor products, to which they comply.

Nine hundred teens participating in BBYO’s summer leadership experiences at Perlman Camp, PA; Beber Camp, WI; and American Hebrew Academy, CA, over the course of this summer, will eat meals free of Agriprocessor products, showing a unified commitment to social justice and Jewish values.

Teens make concerted effort to expand summer program curricula to address the Agriprocessor issue from variety of angles, including the ritual and ethical implications of kashrut, worker’s rights, immigration reform and Jewish values.

The first program will take place on Thursday, June 26, 11:45 am – 1:15 pm, when nearly 100 Jewish teens will gather at Beber Camp in Mukwonago, Wisconson (suburban Milwaukee) to make their voices heard against the intolerable injustices at Agriprocessors. Confirmed speakers include Rabbi Morris Allen, a Minneapolis-based leader of the Heksher Tzedek campaign for kosher foods to be produced ethically, who has been to Postville multiple times and will share first-hand accounts from factory workers. Lauren Shenfeld, BBYO’s International Teen Co-President, will also address the group, to raise awareness among her peers and encourage action when teens return home to their local communities.

“If anyone is going to make their opinion on this problem matter to the Jewish community and communities at large, and ultimately stand up against an issue in which human rights and Jewish values are demeaned, it’s BBYO teens.” – Lauren Shenfeld, BBYO International Teen Co-President

“The reason this issue has struck such a deep chord with BBYO teens is because it’s the story of their grandparents and great grandparents – the story of immigrating to find a better life, fighting oppression and standing up for social justice.” – Marilyn Sneiderman, BBYO Deputy Director and former Director of Field Mobilization for the National AFL-CIO

(hat tip to JTA Telegraph)

I’m curious what campers’ parents think about BBYO’s culinary activism. Are they cool with an organization making an ethical decision on behalf of their kids? Will any Agri-supporting parents pull their kids out of camp as a counter-boycott? Personally, I can only hope that the level of consciousness and thought that BBYO is extending towards the Agriprocessors issue will begin to percolate in other ways at camp mess halls across the country.

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10 Responses to “No S’more – Food Ethics at Summer Camp”

  1. Jo Says:

    I’m jealous! I called the camp my children attend to find out about what meat they use. Not surprisingly, it’s Rubashkin’s. I was told that the chef has tried to use other suppliers, but that they were more expensive and/or were lower quality. I put in our two cents about how we felt it was important for the camp to use other providers. One child is a vegetarian, so it doesn’t affect her, but the other child no longer eats Rubashkin meat, and will be going meatless for the summer.

  2. phyllis Says:

    check out this jewschool article about the same topic:

    I’m off to OSRUI (another Wisconsin camp) myself and, while I don’t eat the meat myself, I’m pleased to know that it won’t be coming from Agriprocessors…Do you think the BBYO initiative came from the kids themselves or from the leadership…I think that our Jewish summer camps are the crowning glory of American Jewish life and are usually our best innovators and percolators in terms of teen activism – so go camps! I am going to include this article in Sunday’s Haveil Havalim Carnival (camp themed, of course!)…

  3. Jeff B. Says:

    Interesting that only one camp organization is not happy with AgriProcessors meats, but hundreds of others across the United States are still satisfied. AgriProcessors work with many schools, restaurants, and delis to provide kosher meats, chickens, and turkeys. There has never been a problem before. Once one accusation on their company came out, a second followed. Its sad to hear the Jews are not supporting other Jews.

  4. jess Says:

    Yasher koach to BBYO! The Rubashkins’ gross violations of human/worker rights has been such an embarrassment to the Jewish community. I am so proud to see BBYO joining together with Jewish organizations around the country to take a stand against this exploitation (even though I’m a former USYer and still cling to the idea that we are way cooler).

    As the above post shows, the Agriprocessors PR machine and pressure machine are trying to misrepresent this debate in the blogosphere and in countless other ways those of us following the debate online can only guess at.

    PLEASE let BBYO know that you think they did the right thing – and they should keep it up and keep spreading the word! Email BBYO Executive Director Matt Grossman at mgrossman [at] bbyo [dot] org to tell him “yasher koach! keep it up!”

  5. Dory Says:

    I’m cooking at Habonim Dror Camp Na’aleh in New York state this summer, and we’ve made a commitment not to use Agriprocessors meat. When my coworker was placing our first meat order, he said “oh, and one more thing” before getting off the phone and our meat supplier said “you don’t want any agriprocessors meat.”

    But about the NYT article–it’s quite infuriating! We manage to run a kitchen here, feeding the whole machaneh, without just heating pre-made processed food up in the oven. We’ve had cheese fries once, it was actually poutine on Canada day (with gravy, of course), but it’s not hard or more expensive to make healthy kid-pleasing meals.

    We don’t have any white bread, for example, and every meal has a salad bar. It turns out that kids like kale if you just bother to feed it to them.

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