Updated June 2023
If you’re a vegan teen who wants to attend summer camp but are worried you won’t find food options there, then this guide may surprise you!
Vegan teens have two basic choices exist when it comes to summer camps:
(1) Attend a known vegan or vegan-friendly summer camp.
(2) See if you can obtain vegan food accommodations at a regular nonvegan summer camp. Thanks to the growing popularity of veganism, regular camps are much more likely now to advertise their ability to accommodate vegan campers than they did when VeganTeen first compiled this list back in 2016! Some new ones are listed at the end of this post.
Option #1: Getting Vegan Food Accommodations at Regular Summer Camp
I have found many times that regular, non-vegan summer camp staff are surprisingly vegan-friendly. Frankly, this surprised me, because I attended camps in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas!
Here’s some steps for maximizing success, based on my personal experience.
Before you go
- Call or email to ask if the camp offers vegan options. (Even if they answer no, you’re showing interest and making it more likely they’ll offer vegan options in the future!)
- If they say no, explain that you’re vegan and ask if you could speak with the kitchen staff about possible meal planning accommodations before enrolling in camp.
- Don’t expect staff to fully cater to you. Instead, ask the kitchen staff member you speak with if you can bring vegan alternatives for meals when no vegan option would normally be available. Most camps plan menus in advance, so staff can tell you when a vegan alternative isn’t available. For example, if they aren’t planning to have soy or nut milk, ask if the kitchen would store a box of it in their fridge for you. If they’re planning on burgers one night, ask if they could they cook a veggie burger for you if you bring some frozen ones. Yes, bringing your own food adds to the cost of the camp for you, but you can consider it a charitable donation to the animals. You have an opportunity to show that vegan teenagers are healthy and eat yummy food. You’re also showing that eating vegan can happen with a few simple food substitutions.
While you’re there
- Express appreciation to the kitchen staff, because camps don’t usually pay them very well. You’re asking them to make extra efforts that they wouldn’t otherwise make.
- Be polite and express gratitude, but don’t hold back telling the kitchen staff what you need. They deal with other special requests, too, like camper allergies. Your needs are also important. You may not die from eating nonvegan food like a camper with a nut allergy could die from eating nuts, but animals are suffering and dying to make nonvegan foods.
- Don’t expect anyone else to turn vegan because of you, but know that you’re planting seeds in others’ minds. You’re making veganism a little more normal and showing that animal-based foods aren’t necessary. Some people will become more open to the possibility of going vegan in the future because of your example. Some need to be exposed to veganism several times before deciding to go vegan. You can provide one of those times!
After camp is over
- When camp is over, thank the camp director(s) for allowing their kitchen staff to accommodate your diet. Compliment any ways the kitchen staff went the extra mile. At three different nonvegan camps I attended, the kitchen staff surprised me by making special foods for me. I thanked the camp directors in hopes they would give the kitchen staff a pat on the back. I also wanted the directors to feel open to accommodating more vegan campers in the future.
Of course, I cannot guarantee a 100% positive response. Only one of the six nonvegan camps I attended expressed unfriendliness about accommodating my vegan diet. The director of an Audubon Society camp talked about how their animal products are “humanely raised,” and she asked my mom if I would feel bad not eating like all the other kids! Nonetheless, their kitchen staff were wonderful in providing me with the vegan alternatives I brought. They even surprised me with a special vegan treat for Sunday brunch that they made just for me! That said, an Audubon Camp in Massachusetts now lists its ability to accommodate vegan campers right on its website, so things definitely are improving!
Option #2: Attend A Known Vegan or Vegan-Friendly Summer Camp
Of course, attending a known vegan or vegan-friendly summer camp is even easier than arranging accommodation at a nonvegan camp.
YEA Camp (US)—Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp is an all-vegan summer camp for teens with locations in Massachusetts, California and New York. I attended and loved it! You can read about my experience here. YEA’s mission is to run “life-changing, ridiculously fun and inspiring camps across the country for progressive teens who want to do something about the problems they see in our world.” YEA serves only vegan food, but you don’t have to be vegan to attend. If you are vegan, though, rest assured that you will have vegan company during your stay! Check out their website here, and be sure to see their sample menu and food pictures here, at the bottom of their page. Campers ages 12-17 can attend (although possibly as young as 11, if you get special approval)
Ridge 2 River Animal Haven (R2R)—R2R is running their first-ever summer camps this season in central Washington State in Summer 2023! Camp Compassion is for children ages 9-12, and Camp Solutionary is for ages 12-16 from July 10th-14th.
Vegan Surf Camp (France)—Vegan Surf Camp is not a teenager-only camp, and underaged people have to be accompanied by an adult. However, a camp spokesperson states that many teenagers are at the camp and love the atmosphere.
Be sure to check out the Vegetarian Resource Group’s list of vegetarian and/or veg-friendly camps here.
Some new vegan-friendly camps since VRG published their guide in 2011 are:
Stomping Ground, “an overnight camp dedicated to empathy, self-direction, and possibility located in the Catskill Mountains outside of Binghamton, New York”
Gold Arrow Camp, a traditional summer camp for boys and girls ages 6-14 located on Huntington Lake in California
Mountain Camp, a traditional co-ed summer resident camp near Lake Tahoe for campers entering 2nd-12th grades
Camp Zeke, an overnight camp where kids celebrate healthy living through fitness, cooking (a vegan option is available at every meal), sports, farm-to-table gourmet food, and joyful Judaism, located in Lakewood, Pennsylvania
Camp Takodah, an overnight YMCA camp in Richmond, New Hampshire
Pali Adventures, “the best vegan-friendly summer camp in Southern California,” where they “serve vegan and vegetarian foods as part of … everyday choices. No camper is singled out for dietary shaming. After all, does anyone really notice if the carrot cake is 100% animal product-free?”
Tall Timber Ranch provides “people of all ages unique opportunities where they may deepen relationships, discover God’s creation, and imagine together a better world.” Located in Leavenworth, Washington, they are inclusive of everyone, regardless of “race, ethnicity, religion, neurodiversity, citizenship, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
Keep in mind that you should always check with any camp you’re considering in order to make sure they still offer vegan-friendly meals and snacks.