At The Outdoor Education Group, we work towards shaping healthy, confident and capable young adults, empowering them with the tools to be the best versions of themselves. For us, this means not only inspiring them to exercise and develop vital and invaluable social and emotional skills, but it also extends to supporting their physical health and setting them up for success by imparting healthy and thoughtful food habits. Our Catering team are experts in providing young people with a balanced and tasty menu promoting their wellbeing and ensuring they get the most out of their experience with us - whether they are visiting one of our camps for a short stay or setting off a 30-day expedition.
In 2018 almost one quarter (24.9%) of Australian children aged 5-17 years were overweight and two thirds (67.0%) of Australian adults were overweight or obese. School camp is the perfect opportunity to be conscientious about nutrition and foster healthy eating habits early. While visiting students are in our care, it is our responsibility to ensure we support their health, growth and development at every level.
A balanced diet is an integral part of maintaining young people's good health and provides them with the nutrients they need to be in good health.
Our expert Catering team produce 280,000 meals each year. They provide meals including a wide variety of foods in the correct proportions to support young peoples' bodies and help them maintain their energy levels, stay motivated and healthy and enjoy their experience with us.
Diet affects mood and energy levels. With 90% of serotonin receptors located in the gut, food impacts overall brain health; providing fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains promotes our participants' wellbeing and supports their mental health. While all foods give you energy, some foods contain nutrients helping to increase energy levels and maintain alertness and focus throughout the day. To promote sustainable energy levels in our participants, we avoid foods high in GI, sugar and salt. Instead, we provide things like brown rice, Weetbix and whole grain wraps. We always make sure we have plenty of bananas, apples, chickpeas and avocados; these are all high in energy and we love them! We add vegetables to every lunch and dinner meal and de-emphasise processed foods where possible. For example, when we make pasta sauces, we always add vegetables like zucchini or carrot.
We extend the same philosophy to more logistically complex, multi-day programs. Campers Pantry is an Australian owned and made freeze-dried food manufacturer based in Tasmania. Freeze-drying removes the moisture from food without any damage to its structure. By adding boiling or cold water to the item, it rehydrates in minutes. Freeze-drying ensures the ingredients retain their flavour and few nutrients are lost. By opting for freeze-dried food on multi-day journey programs, we can easily transport our meals, so we have more time to enjoy our surroundings. 1.2kg of fresh beans becomes 120g of freeze-dried green beans. 1kg of fresh apples is the equivalent of 100g of freeze-dried apples!
Adventuring in Australia's natural world means we need to be prepared for anything. On Total Fire Ban Days, our groups can still enjoy delicious, nutritious meals like chicken or beef salad or burritos by using cool water to rehydrate ingredients. We love to load these with lots of vegetables like carrot, capsicum, cucumber, tomato, snow peas and corn to keep us going.
The school holidays are an exciting time for our Catering team. They use this period to review their menus, recipes and ingredients. They consider feedback gathered from participants and make adjustments for the following school term. Our team has 15 different dinners in rotation and 4 lunches during each term, including our famous bucket lunch!
Student allergies and dietary requirements are relayed to our team prior to program, allowing them to make adjustments and considerations to meal planning.
In Australia, food allergy occurs in around 1 in 20 children. The Outdoor Educations Group maintains a no-nut policy. An inclusive menu removes the risk of allergic reactions and means all participants can enjoy the same meals. Furthermore, we endeavour to include alternatives for every meal; for example, we provide gluten-free pasta for those with an intolerance or remove sesame seeds from meals. Our team has eliminated many products which contain or may contain common allergens, making mealtimes smoother for all. Providing alternatives rather than separate meals promotes a happier and more inclusive community, ensuring students can sit together during meals and enjoy their food together.
Our team apply the same measures when managing dietary requirements. We remove any foods from the menu students cannot eat and replace them with an alternative. For example, in place of the beloved Tim-Tam, we provide dairy-free chocolate treats, gluten-free pretzels and Weetbix and a dairy-free milk option. We ensure each participant is provided with their daily recommended protein intake, whether vegan/vegetarian or not - our menus include many legumes such as chickpeas and beans.
Ruby Altermatt (ANutr.), Dietaries Coordinator at The Outdoor Education Group, says, "Outside of managing allergies and dietaries, we try not to avoid too many foods, as we feel our programs are an excellent opportunity to expose students to new ingredients, flavours and cooking techniques. However, it's a fine balancing act (a lot like nutrition). While we aim to inspire and excite our participants through our menus, we're aware everything about camp is new for many young people. We consider how familiar the students may be with each meal's ingredients, and we like to add a little bit extra. Above all, for us, the nutritional content is foremost. Providing balanced meals means we promote the health and wellbeing of young people and give them the energy to enjoy all the natural world offers."
Preparing and cooking meals together provides our young participants with wonderful learning opportunities and lifelong skills. Students work together, exercising various communication techniques, problem-solving and negotiating risk as they follow a recipe and prepare their meal. Their self-belief increases, as well as their sense of independence and some students even discover a new passion!
The ritual of unwinding after a day of exploring and enjoying a meal together fosters positive social cohesion, providing a space for students to reflect on the day's triumphs and create lifelong memories. Students build trust, develop relationship management skills and interpersonal skills.
Our Catering team is not only responsible for keeping students and school staff full, healthy, happy and energetic; they are also responsible for ensuring our Outdoor Educators are well fed. Our people are the heart of our organisation and it's vital we support them in maintain long-term health and wellbeing.
Sammie Janky, Client Program Manager at The Outdoor Education Group, says, "My favourite camp meal is potatoes and stroganoff sauce! It comes with heaps of veggies, it's hearty, warm and you really feel like you've earnt it after a day of exploring."
In winter, we love hot chocolate, beef casserole and mash, porridge with oats and soups. In summer, we enjoy salads and seasonal vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicum, beans, greens and corn. Our favourite snacks on program are roasted chickpeas and fava beans!
The Outdoor Education Group offer fully catered programs managed by our expert catering team, removing the burden from your school. We provide flexible menus for all dietary requirements and all conditions. You will have confidence your students are provided with nutritious meals fit for their experience.