Sunday, 25 February, 2018 - 12:30
Students enjoying food on school camp

The complete guide - YOU’VE decided on a venue for your school camp, organised your leadership team and booked your transport …now it’s time to think about catering.

ASK most kids what they enjoy about school camps, and chances are that ‘food’ will feature near the top of the list. Home-baked muffins at morning tea…cooking damper around a campfire…a hot chocolate before bed…they’re all part and parcel of the Australian school camp experience. 

The million-dollar question is how best to provide healthy and tasty meals and snacks, and ensure appropriate food safety guidelines are followed.

The first decision you will need to make is whether to have your school camp fully catered for, or whether to undertake the catering on your own.

Full Catering
Full catering is an attractive option – and one that is offered by many camp organisers.

The pros are appealing: you can relax confident in the knowledge that today’s caterers follow strict hygiene and healthy food ‘pyramid’ guidelines; the caterers will be experienced in working out food quantities and timing; and most will be adept at providing meals for those with special dietary requirements. Which all means less work and stress for you and your leadership team.

However, full catering comes at a financial cost, and is not always a practical option for those camping far from a centralised ‘home base’.

If you do choose to have your camp fully catered for, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Meet with your caterer before the camp and determine exactly what the catering package includes. Will all snacks and meals be provided for? Who will be responsible for setting up/cleaning up before and after meals? Do you need to provide any meals and snacks or drinks – or will it be an all-inclusive package?
  • Ask your caterer to provide a detailed menu plan in the weeks leading up to camp to ensure it caters appropriately for your needs.
  • Ensure you provide your caterer with special dietary requirements/religious observations and cultural preferences of teaching staff, caregivers and students in the early stages of your negotiations. Ask how they will provide for those needs – and whether it will add to the cost of the catering package.
  • If you plan to arrive at camp mid-morning, check if the caterer is planning to provide a mid-morning snack and/or drinks. Likewise on the morning you leave; will they provide breakfast before everyone heads home, and a snack for the bus trip back to school?

Self-catering is a cheaper option, but one that involves more planning before you leave – and more work once you arrive.

If you decide to self cater, it is important to delegate someone to take responsibility of the kitchen. Preferably choose someone who has had experience with this before – making spaghetti bolognaise for 40 students is a different ball game than making it for a family of four! The person in charge should ideally have experience in menu creation, calculating commercial quantities of food and drinks, knowledge of where best to purchase goods at bulk price, and experience in cooking and kitchen management.

On the upside, not only will you save money by self-catering, but working together in the kitchen – with students helping of course – can be a fun bonding experience.

Before you decide on self-catering for your next school camp, consider the following tips:– Check that the camp venue allows self-catering.

  • Check that the person selected to head the kitchen can adequately cater for special dietary needs/cultural preferences/religious observations of the group.
  • On your pre-camp visit, ask to see the kitchen and make some notes about what kitchen equipment and utensils are available.
  • Work out a schedule for students to help out in the camp kitchen (i.e. setting up tables and chairs, helping to make simple salads etc, a dishwashing timetable)
  • Make sure you include a tea towel in students’ ‘to bring’ list
  • Consider getting kids to make up their own sandwiches at lunchtime, with adult supervision
  • Consider a menu plan that incorporates buffet style meals to save time and keep the atmosphere relaxed
  • Keep the menu healthy and simple – so everyone can relax and enjoy themselves
  • Ensure you have plenty of snacks and drinks available for everyone.



The National Heart Foundation website has some great healthy and fun recipes that kids will love, including ‘Purple Pears’, raspberry mini muffins and Super Rolls.

Ask your caterer to provide a detailed menu plan in the weeks leading up to your school camp to ensure it caters appropriately for your needs.

Consider a menu plan that incorporates buffet style meals to save time and keep the atmosphere relaxed

Food Safety Tips
EACH year, there are an estimated 5.4 million cases of food poisoning in Australia. A few simple actions can cut the likelihood of food poisoning drastically.

Cross contamination is a major way for food borne diseases to spread. To avoid cross contamination keep raw and cooked foods separate when storing and preparing. Food should be stored in covered containers in the fridge and put raw meats and poultry in the bottom of the fridge so the juices don’t contaminate food on lower shelves. Don’t put cooked meat back on the plate the raw meat was on.

Clean hands will decrease the possibility of food poisoning and other diseases markedly. Remember the 20/20 rule: wash hands for 20 seconds with warm soapy water and dry hands for 20 seconds before starting to cook. Repeat frequently, especially after handling raw meats or vegetables with visible soil. Wash utensils and cutting boards with soap and warm water, and dry thoroughly, before handling different sorts of foods. This is particularly important when dealing with raw meats and vegetables.

Properly cooking food minimises the risk of food poisoning. Cook chicken, minced or boned meats, hamburger, stuffed meats and sausages right through until they reach 75°C. Serve hot food steaming hot above 60ºC. Defrost frozen poultry and rolled and stuffed meats thoroughly before cooking. Always follow cooking instructions on packaged foods.

Food that is meant to be kept chilled should be! As soon as possible after purchasing meat, poultry, dairy foods, vegetables and salad ingredients, refrigerate them at or below 5ºC. Leftovers should also be promptly refrigerated. Cooked food should be stored in covered containers and either put in the fridge to cool, or frozen immediately. Frozen foods should be defrosted in the fridge NOT on the kitchen bench. If in doubt, throw it out!

Source: Food Safety Information Council