Help Get Sugary Drinks Out of Summer Camps

Summer is here, and that means camp for kids to make new friends and try new things — but it also potentially means being exposed to unhealthy sugary drinks.

Will your child’s camp give them healthy drinks, or sugary drinks, like "bug juice"?

The American Camp Association (ACA), the country's leading camp resource and accreditation group, requires camps to take many steps to ensure the safety and well-being of young people. They also offer suggestions on how camps can help kids be active and eat healthy foods.

But ACA does NOT require camps to have a healthy beverage policy to gain accreditation.

That means, for the more than 2,400 ACA-accredited camps nationwide, none are required to refrain from serving campers sugary sodas, juices, or flavored milk.

Research shows Latino kids already consume more sugary drinks on average than their peers, so they have more to lose when camps recruit Latino families and then provide unhealthy sugary drinks during this critical out-of-school season.

Tell the ACA they should take our children's health seriously and add a "no sugary drinks" rule to their camp accreditation standards.

We don't want kids guzzling sugar this summer — we want them to be healthy and happy!
Dear American Camp Association:

Congratulations on the beginning of the 2014 summer camp season.

We salute your knowledge and experiences as a community of camp professionals that have ensured quality camp experiences for kids for over 100 years. Your accreditation guidelines display your commitment to camp program quality and safety. We also appreciate your efforts to make camps aware of the importance of nutrition and physical activity, and even offer some training.

However, we feel the accreditation guidelines could be strengthened.

As you probably know, over the last three decades, childhood obesity rates have soared.

Hispanic children ages 2-19 are more likely to be overweight or obese (38.9%) than their white, black, or Asian peers. Hispanic kids consume an above-average amount of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), including soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, and flavored milk, which contribute to increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and other health issues that disproportionately affect Latinos.

As the ACA has noted, the growing Hispanic demographic presents new opportunities for summer camps to introduce a new generation of kids to fun activities.

Exposure to new things is a plus for kids — but exposure to excessive sugary drinks is all too familiar.

I am dedicated to helping children eat nutritious foods and drinks and get more physical activity, to help them reduce their risk of obesity and associated diseases.

I view consuming excess sugary drinks as a health and safety concern, and therefore would ask that the ACA consider a camp’s drink policy before giving them full ACA accreditation.

Studies show that reducing kids' sugary drink consumption can help them maintain a healthy weight.

Many camps across the country have begun swapping sugary drinks — like soda or the classic "bug juice" concoction — for water and lower-sugar options. Why not go all the way and make it an accreditation requirement?

I urge you to add a "no sugary drinks" rule to your accreditation requirements.

[Your comments will go here]

Our children and health system will benefit from your leadership on this issue.

Sincerely,
[Your name]
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