Best Gluten-Free Summer Camp in Southern California

Food intolerances can be a source of serious anxiety for parents preparing their kids for overnight summer camp. How can you be certain that your child will be well-fed and allergen-free?

Luckily, there are summer programs invested in every camper’s ability to enjoy nourishing, healthy food. If your son or daughter has a gluten allergy in particular, gluten-free summer camp foods do exist.

What should you look for in a gluten-free summer camp in Southern California? Which is the best one for your child? In this post, we provide in-depth answers to these questions so that you can have peace of mind.

What to Look for in a Gluten-Free Summer Camp

Gluten intolerance is on the rise. Unfortunately, gluten is in so many food items, particularly packaged goods! Whether your child has Celiac disease or a mild allergy, it can be tough enough finding gluten-free foods to keep your kid healthy and happy.

More and more summer camps and school programs are jumping on board the gluten-free train. Some are explicitly gluten-free, serving 100% GF meals to campers. Others are extremely accommodating of special diet needs and have the resources to cater to a wide range of palates.

For those camps that accommodate a range of diets, you’ll want to prioritize programs with the following qualities. This will ensure that your child won’t run into any gluten issues, even in buffet-style cafeteria settings.

An Executive Chef on Premises

Not all summer camps have a professional, dedicated culinary staff on premises. The ones that do, however, are far more likely to accommodate allergies and special diets, especially gluten-free needs. 

Camps where counselors or directors double as cooks are more likely to cater to a general audience, making it harder for kids with allergies to get the nutrients they need. 

Look for programs with dieticians or executive chefs on premises. Prioritize camps that have professional food preparation areas. We’re not talking big pots of beanie weenies on improvised camp stoves! Seek out programs with dedicated food-service and professional-grade kitchens.

For example, Pali Adventures culinary staff is well-versed in all kinds of food preparation. They have many years of professional experience, especially our executive chef and culinary director. Our kitchen is able to modify traditional meals for various intolerances without sacrificing on quality or taste.

Evidence of Food-Allergy Mindfulness

Experienced kitchen staff is one thing. But food-allergy mindfulness is another. How can you make sure staff members are actually equipped to handle gluten intolerance?

Food allergy mindfulness involves preparing food items separately, if need be, and sterilizing equipment before it can lead to cross-contamination. It’s easier to be mindful in this way in larger, industrial-grade kitchens.

Not all camps may have this, however, and it can be hard to assess food preparation processes from a website alone. That’s why we recommend contacting a program representative and asking specifically about how they handle food preparation for children with allergies.

Ask what steps they take to handle gluten-free needs. In some cases, you may even be able to speak directly to kitchen staff.

At Pali Adventures, we’re extremely mindful of allergies and intolerances. That’s why we are 100% nut-free, all day and every day.

Your Camper’s Ability to Eat Independently with Ease

Your child shouldn’t be worrying about what they’re going to eat while they’re preparing for a high ropes course or talent showcase at summer camp! It’s important to know that your child will be able to eat independently and with ease.

For this reassurance, speak with a camp staff member. Ask about that camp’s specific way of handling food allergies, and evidence of their ability to do so well. Some camps will come up with specific eating plans for campers on a need basis.

You may also want to prioritize programs with buffet-style meals. These can more easily accommodate a range of dietary needs, especially if each meal is clearly labeled and well-presented.

Depending on the program you choose and the severity of your child’s allergy, you may also be able to send them with special food items. Check with the program director before you do this.

How to Choose a Gluten-Free Summer Camp in Southern California

Now that you have some options in front of you, it’s time to choose the best gluten-free summer camp in Southern California. Keep the following in mind as you do so.

Know Your Child’s Specific Gluten-Free Needs

This may seem obvious, but there is a difference between full-blown Celiac disease and mild gluten intolerance! Identify your child’s specific gluten-free needs so that you and program directors can prepare accordingly.

It may also be worth your time to double-check your child’s intolerance with a medical professional. 

Communicate These Needs

This is so essential! Be transparent about your child’s gluten-free needs with all program directors and camp staff. Doing so positions you and your child for a safe, allergen-free camp experience. It will also keep you from fretting while your child is adventuring.

Tour Kitchen Facilities

For severe allergies, you may want to tour a camp’s kitchen facilities ahead of time and speak with kitchen staff on-site. Consult a program representative to arrange this if need be.

Talk to Your Child

Your child is likely aware of their intolerance already and already practices safe eating habits at home. Still, be sure to come up with a food allergy game plan with your kid before they head off to camp. 

If your child will be eating buffet-style, make sure they know to stay away from gluten, especially sneakier ingredients (like soy sauce). Advise them also not to share food with other campers.

Train your child to ask kitchen staff if something is gluten-free before eating, too. This can be helpful regardless of how equipped a program is to handle allergies.

The Best Gluten-Free Summer Camp in Southern California

You don’t have to look too much further to find the best gluten-free summer camp in Southern California. We are proud of the way we handle food allergies at Pali and confident that we can meet every camper’s gluten-free needs.

Our on-site executive chef is able to accommodate virtually every dietary need. Plus, our parent liaisons are happy to create a plan with you before your child arrives so that they can always experience a safe dining environment!

Each Pali meal offers vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. We also have a medical staff on-site 24/7, and all of our camp staff are trained in first aid and CPR. We discourage any outside food because of allergies, but we do make exceptions for severe intolerances.

If you’re ready to book a unique summer camp experience for your child without the anxiety of navigating allergies, we’re here to talk. Click the chat in the bottom right-hand corner to begin!