When parents of food-allergic children asked Andrew Singer, MD, about allergy-safe summer camps in Knoxville, Tennessee, he recognized an unmet need.
“Some parents did not want to send their children to a summer camp where food allergies were not a consideration, so our community developed a camp that would be safer,” says Dr. Singer, a board-certified allergist with Allergy & Asthma Affiliates, P.C., in Knoxville and an Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACE) volunteer with Allergy & Asthma Network.
Dr. Singer and his practice partnered with The University of Tennessee Gardens in Knoxville and the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET) to create Camp Cultivate. The free, interactive camp is three half-days in July and is designed for children ages 6-12 who want to learn about gardening and food allergies. No food is served.
“A garden is a great setting for children to learn and apply key messages about food allergies,” says Derrick Stowell, HGTV-UT Gardens Education Director and co-author of the Camp Cultivate curriculum. “Children can see and interact with plants both edible and for decoration. Research also shows that being around plants helps calm and reduce stress.”
During camp, Stowell leads discussions on the importance of respect for nature and each other and how plants communicate to gardeners about what they need.
“Campers don’t just learn about plants, soil, seeds and bugs,” Dr. Singer says. “The discussion evolves into lessons on proper nutrition, bullying and the importance for children with food allergies to clearly communicate their needs to adults and other children. Everyone should learn these lessons, but they’re especially relevant for children with food allergies.”
Dr. Singer, who serves as medical advisor for Camp Cultivate, works with Stowell to ensure gardening activities during camp are safe for kids with allergies and that soil and other gardening materials are free of food allergens, such as peanut husks that are found in some commercial preparations.
Campers aren’t the only ones who benefit from the experience. “Being a part of Camp Cultivate has provided me with a new perspective about my patients’ concerns,” Dr. Singer says. “It’s helped me to better support them and their needs.”
To learn more about the program, visit https://utgardens.wildapricot.org.
Written by Brenda Silvia-Torma, MEd, ACE Program Manager
Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACE) is a national, award-winning education, advocacy and outreach program developed and hosted by Allergy & Asthma Network in partnership with the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, sponsored by Mylan Specialty L.P.
ACE volunteer teams across the country offer free awareness and training programs about food, latex and venom allergies, signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, and how to use an epinephrine auto-injector. Teams include allergists, school nurses, community members and parents.