Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

ESF Dream Camp Foundation

Name of Innovative Program: 
The Dream Camp Healthy Eating Program
Sponsoring Organization
ESF Dream Camp Foundation
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Michael Rouse
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Project Description: 
The ESF Dream Camp Foundation, founded in 1998, aims to provide high-quality, innovative after-school and summer programming to underserved Philadelphia youth.  What began as an effort to improve students’ academic success has transformed into a program that focuses on the holistic development of children, including their health.In 2010, Dream Camp’s founder, Michael Rouse, met a with a Philadelphia chef, Marc Vetri, in hopes of solving an important problem:  providing Dream Camp students with nutritious and tasty meals for less than the National School Lunch Program reimbursement rate.  From this meeting, an innovative Dream Camp program was born.  The Dream Camp Healthy Eating Program has revolutionized the way our students eat during the summer.  Instead of the chicken nuggets and pizza served at most schools, Dream Camp students are served a nutritious diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, poultry, fish and healthy alternatives to sugar-filled desserts.  Besides being exposed to new foods, learning proper table etiquette, understanding the importance of consuming fruits and vegetables, meal times present opportunities for students to develop leadership skills.  Students assist in food preparation, menu planning and dining hall management.  As a result, our students are healthier and better informed about living a healthy lifestyle.  
Creativity and Innovation: 
After spending years designing a curriculum that takes a holistic approach to the development of underserved youth, Dream Camp still had an issue to address – the basic health of the students.  According to the American Psychiatric Association, good nutrition is essential to healthy brain development, which is critical for learning. Children who eat healthily and exercise are likely to perform better academically, cope with stress, regulate their emotions and avoid feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.  With nutrition playing such a vital role, it was essential that students' diets be revamped.Dream Camp’s food program is possible through collaboration with strong partners.  Together, we provide delicious and healthy meals to our students.  We also encourage students to take responsibility for their health by making them active participants.  Students prepare menus, cook meals and even grow some of the healthy foods they eat in the Dream Camp organic garden. 
Dream Camp’s Healthy Eating Program is truly visionary; it is also a testament to our commitment to the holistic development of children.The program acknowledges that academic success and behavior are closely linked to physical health.  When it comes to food, most schools and out-of-school programs are just concerned with feeding children.  Dream Camp, however, is also concerned with what we’re feeding children.  Because we want our children to succeed, we strive to give them every advantage possible and that includes a healthy and nutritious diet.Dream Camp’s Healthy Eating Program has impacted the educational outcomes and health of thousands of underserved children in Philadelphia.  The program has spread beyond the Dream Camp campus and into other Philadelphia-based organizations.  The Dream Camp Healthy Eating Program provided the impetus for Marc Vetri to create the Vetri Foundation for Children, which now provides similar programs in eight schools in the Philadelphia area. 
From the beginning, Dream Camp has relied on the generosity of individuals and various institutions to bring its vision, providing after-school and summer programming to underserved youth, to life.  Dream Camp has received funds from the Berwind Fund and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which will be used to help support the Dream Camp Healthy Eating Program.  Additionally, Dream Camp's partnerships with the Vetri Foundation and Greener Partners help contain costs.  Menu development and food sourcing is provided free of charge by the Vetri Foundation while Greener Partners' support of our organic garden lowers food expenses -- students grow many of the fruits and vegetables they eat.  Lastly, Dream Camp has had a relationship with Girard College since its inception.  The school has hosted the Dream Camp program for more than 10 years and will continue lending its campus (including the land for the organic garden) to Dream Camp.
Dream Camp's Healthy Eating Program model can easily be replicated at schools, summer camps or any other institution devoted to the care of underserved youth. In fact, it already has been replicated.  Inspired by the positive impact the program had on the children at Dream Camp, the Vetri Foundation for Children has offered and instituted the program (called Eatiquette) at several other Philadelphia schools.  Since 2010, Dream Camp's healthy eating curriculum has made its way into eight Philadelphia schools as well as Dream Camp's Hartford, CT location.Dream Camp welcomes the opportunity to share knowledge, best practices, and advice with other organizations interested in implementing a similar program.
Dream Camp measures outcomes for its healthy eating program in a variety of ways including:·      Tracking behavioral infractions on a daily basis;·      Recording the number of new foods children try during the summer;·      Counting the number of parents and children who participate in the Dream Camp cooking demonstrations;·      Measuring students’ weight and BMI at the start and end of camp. There are other benefits of the Dream Camp Healthy Eating Program which prove more difficult to measure including how healthy eating impacts:·      How students feel about themselves and their abilities;·      How students cope with stress;·      How students regulate their emotions; and·      How students avoid feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.