“You can tell the food at Camp Tawonga is made with love,” camper Sarah B. remarked to her counselor last week as she took another bite from her colorful stir-fry with chicken and organic vegetables. If you have visited camp this season, you might have also noticed that there’s something special cooking in Tawonga’s kitchen lately.
Though our food has always been made with love, some recent refinements in this department have elevated mealtime in a whole new way, contributing to an even more rich and positive Tawonga experience for all. Thanks to the tremendous generosity of a Tawonga community member with a background in food service, and to the hard work of our 2015 Kitchen Manager, Ariell Gross, and our 2016 Kitchen Manager, Aaron Lurie, the Tawonga Kitchen has made significant improvements in four key areas: food sourcing, preparation, presentation, and clean-up.
Mapping out a plan with intentional changes in each of these four areas, our donor and dedicated staff spent months prior to our 2015 season working hard to implement improvements. In each aspect of the planning process, the team was guided by the questions, “Would we do this at home? And, would we serve this to our family?” Read on to hear how the overwhelming answer was always: YES!
- Food Sourcing:
We now source nearly all products that use only natural ingredients. Our kitchen also sources more organic produce, which includes more fresh fruits and vegetables for our meals and snacks. In addition, the chicken and beef we use is all natural, free range, and hormone-free. Our milk is all organic, and as often as we are able, we also source locally in order to have fresher produce.
Not only do these changes positively impact the health of our participants, but they are also more environmentally sustainable, which aligns with our mission of establishing a partnership with nature and caring for the earth.
A significant goal that we are excited to have reached in our food preparation is making meals that are both highly nutritious and delicious, as well as offering vegetables alongside every single meal. Whether the menu is featuring rosemary chicken, spaghetti, or enchiladas, our kitchen guarantees a healthy and tasty plate for every participant. Plus, all of our breads are now baked in-house, including baguettes, foccacia, sandwich bread and challah for Shabbat.
In addition, we already provided alternatives for participants with food sensitivities, but now our options have significantly expanded so that these alternatives are just as appetizing as the main event. These options accommodate individuals with all of the dietary restrictions we encounter throughout the season, including those with gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, Chron’s Disease, Celiac Disease, and others.
At Tawonga, meals are a time to come together and connect with each other. They are a sanctified experience, beginning with the HaMotzi and ending with the Birkat Hamazon. Accordingly, we care not only about how our meals taste, but also how they are presented, in a way that mirrors our appreciation for the food we eat. Through buying new and improved plates and larger water cups, the presentation of our food has been elevated.
Aside from our allergen-free food alternatives, we have added new alternative food options with the addition of two food bars. These food bars offer healthy vegetables at every meal, extra protein alternatives like beans, extra salad toppings and fixings, and options for picky eaters like plain pasta.
Our staff now use new eco-cleaning products not only for the kitchen, but for all over camp. These products are now safer and include ingredients that are less harsh on the environment while still getting the job done. They are also healthier for our campers and participants, and especially for our kitchen and maintenance staff who use them regularly.
We are so grateful to our kitchen donor who made these huge changes possible, and who is also a shining example of how camp supporters can make a direct impact on Tawonga. Finally, as campers like to yell out in the Dining Hall after a particularly delicious meal: “We want the kitchen staff! We want the kitchen staff!” We know our kitchen team members will continue to make our food with love, we thank them for it, and we look forward to breaking bread with you at Tawonga very soon.