article by Scott Williams, Camp Director and Founder
I became vegan after I watched Food Inc. and a couple other documentaries. Ever since I was a kid, I've considered myself an animal lover but quickly realized my hypocrisy after I saw an animal "humanely slaughtered" in one of said documentaries. After that, I quickly became vegetarian and vegan soon after I learned about the horrors of the egg and dairy industry. I never looked back and was thrilled when I came to find that not only was it the right thing to do ethically, but it was also the healthiest way to eat and great for the environment to boot!
When I chose to be a physical educator, creating and running my own business never crossed my mind. But after years of successful and well attended after-school classes I taught, a co-worker walked through one of those offerings as it was packed with fifty 3rd-5th graders. “You should run your own summer camp!” she exclaimed after seeing the sea of boys and girls in the gym. With that suggestion, the creation of Camp4Real began!
Working in a school with 440 kids and getting numerous hugs and hi-fives per day, I am exposed to my share of germs. In my early years of teaching, it was commonplace for me to get sick three or four times per year, and we are not talking about the common cold. After I started eating the right way, I didn’t miss a day of school due to sickness for three years straight and rarely get sick more than once a year currently. At school I can educate, encourage, and sometimes show my students (aka my kids) what I eat, but I cannot feed them all. Well at Camp4Real, I can do all that AND present them with a plethora of healthy food choices on a daily basis! Plus, we get to reach more of the community as we’ve held numerous camps over the years at six different schools across Charlottesville!
Every meal at Camp4Real is plant-based and REAL. There are no artificial ingredients in our offerings and we use whole or minimally-processed foods (nut butters, smoothies, etc.) every day. We try to have a different theme every day such as healthy breakfast, quick snacks, healthy desserts, fun experiment-type snacks, etc. and have anywhere from 10-15 choices of different foods/toppings at each meal. Our food director and I try to plan kid-friendly meals as well as making them stretch outside their “eating comfort zone.” For example, on our healthy breakfast bar each camper grabs a bowl and proceeds through the serving line and fills the bowl with toppings of their choosing. We encourage them to choose raw oats as their base and if you’ve ever eaten raw oats before, you know they are not sweet at all. Yet many of our campers try it and like it as we instruct them to use fruit such as bananas, strawberries, and raisins (not too many as dried fruits are high in sugar!) to sweeten their bowl naturally. We also give them two choices of plant-based milk and offer unsweetened varieties of each. The vast majority of our kids love it!
Camp4Real is proud to to go the non-traditional route with our camp. We hire only great physical educators to lead our kids in the activities which aren’t based on traditional sports. We design activities that teach nutritional concepts in fun and active ways as the brain loves active, novel approaches to learning in contrast to lecturing. Camp4Real takes snack time seriously and invests in high-quality food and staff to handle the preparation and design of the meals. We believe these reasons are what make us unique and we are very fortunate to live in a community that supports and appreciates our mission! We are always looking for other physical educators or inspired community leaders to work with, so we'd love to come to your town and expand our reach!
You can learn more about Camp4Real at the below links: