I have been a summer camp counselor two different times: once at sleep-away camp for 7th graders and once at day camp for 3-year-olds. As you might expect, I have seen a lot of questionable things over these past few summers. These are just a couple of the food-related realities I've faced as a counselor, ranging from terrifying to hilarious to just plain awesome. Hands up if you can relate!

1. Snack time is your worst nightmare

ice, popsicle, cream, sweet, ice cream
Maddie Cleeff

Snack time has the ability to turn sour real fast, especially when it's ice cream or ice pop day. Somehow it manages to get ALL OVER them. Even if you JUST finished cleaning a kid up, you look away for five minutes and their entire ice cream sandwich has melted and their arms will be sticky for the next two hours and spoiler alert: so will yours. 

2. You're not allowed to be a picky eater

If you think you are too good for camp food, the campers will also think they are too good for camp food. Then they won't eat. They'll go home hungry and cranky, and then their parents will be angry with you just because you didn't want to eat gross hot dogs. Just take one for the team.

3. Bug juice always tastes better when it's called bug juice

It can be fruit punch, grape juice, or some combination of the two, but as soon as it's called bug juice, sign me up. I guess it's just the camp spirit in me!

4. Visiting Day is the best day of the summer

chocolate, cookie, brownie, cake, candy, sweet
Reed Erickson

Visiting Day is just plain awesome, or rather the night after Visiting Day. Can you say confiscated food? These kids get cookies, cakes, brownies, cupcakes, cake pops, chips, crackers, and literally anything else you can think of. And who gets to eat it when it all gets taken away? You guessed it — me. 

5. Two words: Pizza. Bagels.

pizza, pepperoni, mozzarella, cheese, bacon
Jade Hsiao

Pizza Bagel Day is the best day of the week. At my camp, it was every Friday. There is no other place on earth where otherwise health conscious people would throw it all away to try and eat 10 pizza bagels in one sitting. It's also magical because there's no other place where that is even remotely possible. As soon as I leave camp, I can eat one, maybe two pizza bagels in one sitting. But as soon as I cross that line onto camp property, I can suddenly eat at least five.

6. You can use a knife and fork at lightning speed

When you have 14 little ones to manage, who all need their food cut for them, you become an expert at cutting things into tiny little pieces. It almost becomes second-nature, the same way that your automatic response to someone being funny is to go: "You're so silly" in the dumbest, most baby-talk voice. All part of the job, baby, all part of the job.

7. Watching campers eat will deter you from having kids for at least 10 years


Watching snotty little 7th grade boys eat will 1) deter you from procreating and 2) make you want to constantly use hand sanitizer. They never chew with their mouths closed, eat the most disgusting food combinations, and have perpetually dirty hands. Blech.

8. Campfire is the best night of the summer

chocolate, peanut butter, peanut, butter, cookie, sandwich
Lynden Orr

I swear, once your kids find out there's going to be a campfire soon, they feel the need to reassure themselves every three hours that there's going to be s'mores. They'll never be happier to participate in an evening activity than when it involves chocolate and marshmallows.

9. Counselor privilege is not having to clean up the table

Sure, we get days off, and we're getting paid to be at camp and to basically hang out with our friends. However, the thing I looked forward to most about becoming a counselor was being able to pawn off cleaning up after a meal to the campers. As soon as children step on camp soil, they forget all table manners. They spill things and don't clean them up and they get food everywhere. Good luck.

10. For all the complaining you had about camp food, you'll miss it when it's gone

chocolate, sweet
Devon Flinn

I haven't been to my sleep-away camp since 2012. It's been five years, and I'm still raving about the pizza bagels. For whatever reason, the food is part of the experience. You might think you want good food at camp, but as soon as they try anything fancier than chicken nuggets, everyone is shook. Appreciate it while you can y'all.