What Do Children Eat in the Summer? A Direct Observation of Summer Day Camps That Serve Meals.J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017 Jul; 117(7):1097-1103.JA
More than 14 million children in the United States attend summer camp annually, yet little is known about the food environment in day camps.
Our aim was to describe the nutritional quality of meals served to, brought by, and consumed by children attending summer day camps serving meals and snacks, and to describe camp water access.
We conducted a cross-sectional study.
Participants were 149 children attending five summer camps in Boston, MA, in 2013.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES
Foods and beverages served were observed for 5 consecutive days. For 2 days, children's dietary intake was directly observed using a validated protocol. Outcome measures included total energy (kilocalories) and servings of different types of foods and beverages served and consumed during breakfast, lunch, and snack.
STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED
Mean total energy, trans fats, sodium, sugar, and fiber served per meal were calculated across the camps, as were mean weekly frequencies of serving fruits, vegetables, meat/meat alternates, grains, milk, 100% juice, sugar-sweetened beverages, whole grains, red/highly processed meats, grain-based desserts, and salty snacks. Mean consumption was calculated per camper per day.
Camps served a mean (standard deviation) of 647.7 (134.3) kcal for lunch, 401.8 (149.6) kcal for breakfast, and 266.4 (150.8) kcal for snack. Most camps served red/highly processed meats, salty snacks, and grain-based desserts frequently, and rarely served vegetables or water. Children consumed little (eg, at lunch, 36.5% of fruit portions, 35.0% of meat/meat alternative portions, and 37.6% of milk portions served) except for salty snacks (66.9% of portions) and grain-based desserts (64.1% of portions). Sugar-sweetened beverages and salty snacks were frequently brought to camp. One-quarter of campers drank nothing throughout the entire camp day.
The nutritional quality of foods and beverages served at summer day camps could be improved. Future studies should assess barriers to consumption of healthy foods and beverages in these settings.