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Allergy accommodations

How do other packs handle allergies at pack events. I’m thinking of pack campouts, B&G, holidays etc. Our pack has two scouts who happen to be the children of the cubmaster who have food allergies (eggs and peanuts) Another family has gluten allergies. We historically been really accommodating but it’s becoming a challenge for the other families to accommodate. Most of our pack is low income.

For B&G, and a couple of other annual events we hold pot lucks where the pack provides one of the main items (I. E. Turkey for the November pack meeting)

Historically the pack has charged for participation at the annual campout and provided all food.

As I don’t have any allergies so I’m not sure how to navigate this best. Do I build the additional cost for allergen free items into the budget? I wasn’t present but my understanding is that the gluten free turkey had an increased cost burdensome too the family volunteering to bring it. Do I have each family bring their own food? Do I educate the other families about avoiding allergens or to label their food?

How can I be responsible and ensure I’m not introducing allergens? Is there a social etiquette I should br filling? I want to be kind, friendly and thrifty.

Our pack is about 25 strong and great. I want to be and teach inclusiveness in managing this.

Thanks in advance.

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As a family with a food allergy scout, it has been eye-opening to how little people actually know about food allergies; ourselves included. Until it came into our home, we had no idea how prevalent and how hard it is to find and identify food contents/allergens, etc.

To that end, I recommend incorporating your suggestion of pack & den level training on the topic. You can bring in guest speakers (allergists, professional chefs, school nutrition folks, nurses, etc.). You also want to incorporate the “sharing discussion”; scouts without allergies will often offer to share their candy, homemade items, etc. with their friends - so teaching the allergy Scouts to ask permission first (ask the adult who made it, ask a leader, etc. - because the scout offering may not know the ingredients or will guess) and teaching the other scouts to ask their parents to get/provide allergy free items to share. Same with parents; using store bought items that include the ingredients and allergen info is a safer way to provide snacks/food then home baked goods where an almond powder or nut paste may be used without thinking, etc. Most epi-pens include trainers, too, so a hands-on lesson on the epi-pens, how they work, etc. can be incorporated; including the misconception that epi-pens always work to stop a reaction, so it isn’t a big deal if the scout gets exposed, and that as soon as an epi-pen is used 911 should be called (there is a reason they are sold in packs of two).

We deal with Tree nuts and a severe Peanut allergy - many people don’t realize they are different; we have had friendly people swap peanut butter with hazelnut butter or almond paste and think they have addressed the peanut allergies. Many families tend to rely on pre-packaged snacks due to their ability to bulk purchase - but many of these products use peanuts; crackers with peanut butter, trail mixes with almonds and/or peanuts, etc. Almost everything these days has a warning that the food was processed on machines that may come in contact with nuts or peanuts, which makes it harder for people uninformed about the allergies to know what to use - since so many things appear to say not to use them. Being able to tell the difference from contains nuts and the legal warning that a nut may have been somewhere on the premises is important to talk about.

A couple other options to consider is go more pot-luck, with assigned courses to different groups instead of a pay-to-play method. We have vegetarians in our group, too. They typically will sign-up to bring an item that they can eat as the Scout staples of Hot Dogs and Hamburgers won’t work for them. So they have options because they team up and make sure there is a main dish and side or two that is agreeable (and allows those who don’t eat vegetarian a chance to try a new dish). The same can be done with your food allergy families; they can team up to provide a side or secondary main that meets the gluten, seafood, nut and peanut-free requirements. At the meal, having labels or areas of the serving table labeled as “contains peanuts” and “Nut/Peanut Free” helps.

Hope this helps!


There are so many things about allergies. And glutton free is a tough situation depending on the level of sensitivity. It helps to know that gluten comes from wheat (and only wheat). But…contamination is rampant and some or so sensitive that pot luck just won’t work.

Accommodations for Prescribed Medications

Some foods also interfere with certain medications.

I guess it depends on how you define wheat:


We have a number of food-related issues: some allergies, some faith-based, some lifestyle choices. Like anything else, you just work together to come up with a solution.

For larger camps, I find it’s easier to just bring your own food.

Our BS Troop has been nut-free for nine years and it has worked well. The keys are:

  1. Education. Get the youth members & parents educated on the allergies / diet needs involved and the ramifications. It can change from year to year depending on membership. Everyone needs to know the severity, what is and isn’t acceptable (examples help), cross-contamination, food labels (and the gaps in them), etc.
  2. Committee & Leadership buy-in. Like most things in a Pack or Troop, if the leadership is on board, it makes it easier to implement rules, policies or guidelines (choose your title…calling something a rule can help or hinder vs. using the term 'guideline). Ours nut-free status is actually written into our ByLaws for the Troop.
  3. Parent involvement. If the parent of the scouts involved are not involved in the unit actively, it’s difficult t have other parents step in to fill the void as a final ‘lookout’. The parent and (if old enough) scout need to be willing to shoulder their share of the burden for screening foods and menus and not assume someone else will do it for them. This is usually not a problem, but occasionally we get a drop-em and leave-em parent who just assumes we have the depth and ability at every event to screen food items for their scouts needs.

If you get those things in place, then things like bringing ingredient lists and food labels becomes second nature to everyone in the unit. You’d be surprised how willing people are to look out for scouts with dietary needs as long as they know about it and know the details (like others have posted here) of what is and isn’t on the ‘no-no’ list. #3 is the most crucial for severe allergies as they are the final check on everything.

It can be done and now a days shouldn’t impose too great (if any) of a financial burden on anyone as the options available in your regular grocery store are so much greater now than they were 10 years ago, the costs for looking for nut free or gluten free products have dropped considerably.

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We’re vegetarian and there are others with allergies. We do potluck for most meals except breakfasts. Sometimes the pack provides meat, and they simply don’t charge our family. The best solution is bring one thing to the meal you know is safe and substantial for your family and then select other foods you trust. Or bring your own entirely. Even though we’ve never asked to change anything, there are still people that grumble we’re vegetarians, so definitely don’t be that person when it comes to allergies and restrictions. If there’s an allergen someone can’t even be in the room with, ban it. Everyone can go without for a few days. Try setting up a make your own trail mix station that is entirely nut free! It’s fun and kids will often try new foods.

Guidance and Tools

Food allergy statistics

The occurrence of reported food allergies for children (and adults) has increased significantly in the past two decades.

Food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 8% of children in the United States. (references 1, 2) That’s 1 in 13 children, …

  1. United States Census Bureau Quick Facts (2015 and 2016 estimates). Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/RHI225218external icon.
  2. Gupta RS, Warren CM, Smith BM, Blumenstock JA, Jiang J, Davis MM, Nadeau KC. The public health impact of parent-reported childhood food allergies in the united states. Pediatrics . 2018;142(6):e20181235.

Source: CDC Food Allergies web page, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

I have had some luck on the gluten free side. Gluten free flour makes decent gravy mixed with butter and milk for SOS or sausage gravy. There are numerous gluten free pancake and bread mixes that make surprisingly decent campfire ash-cakes (but cooked on the rocks instead of directly in the ashes). This probably wont help a Cub Scout Pack, but a BSA troop can learn a lot from a weekend of “accomodating alergies in cooking” while on an official camp out. It really drives home some of the issues brought up in the cooking merit badge pamphlet.

Thanks for all the informative replies and ideas. As a family without allergies I’m still learning the best way to ensure our food practices result in a safe event which is readily accessable by all families.

You are getting some great answers above.

FARE (foodallergy.org) is also a great resource.

As an allergy mom I always appreciate when people ask me questions about my son’s specific needs. It is important to recognize that some allergies are more severe than others, so each person’s experience with food allergies might be different. While one family might be comfortable with food from a pot-luck-buffet, another family might not be.

Please ask your allergy families what their specific needs are. In our case, my son can not eat anything made in a kitchen/factory with his allergens. He always appreciates it when someone goes out of their way to include him in the food at an event, but 98% of the time he can not eat what they have brought - leading to an awkward conversation.

Please talk to your allergy families.

Thank you!

First, if the child has Celiac disease then wheat is not the only problem. Rye, barely, anything with malt as an ingredient, soy sauce, and brewers yeast are also a concern.

My daughter has Celiac disease and due to cross-contamination concerns, we don’t use any of the cookware that the troop uses nor share food. Typically, I pay the minor camping fee for myself and my two scouts. For my daughter, I always pack a small cooler for her as well as utensils and pots/pans if needed. She is 17 so she is well aware of the downside to being exposed to gluten and takes it seriously. She will opt not to eat if there is nothing available. She can and will eat unpeeled fruit, Lay’s brand single serving chips, and cheese sticks if the patrol brings them.

We use the same philosophy with scouting as we have always done with school or friends parties: we bring our own and we don’t expect other people to have to learn and understand the nuances of her disease. Yes…it’s more expensive and time consuming but after 5 years of living like this, it is just our norm now.

For us, I would simply prefer the troop to exclude her when thinking about food items. Even if the intentions are best, the possibility of cross-contamination is so high that we simply don’t take the chance. The ensuing 3 weeks of illness is simply not worth it. We have a quarterly pot-luck as a troop and I always bring a couple dishes she can eat and we allow scouts with allergies to go to the front of the line.

And here is one issue today. When someone says gluten free, they may have celiac or they may have some other sensitivity which doctors can’t agree if exists or not. (I side with the people saying they shouldn’t eat gluten.)

Allergies range from extreme to minor so I don’t care for one size fits all solutions. As above some have issues with even incidental cross contamination.

I have a scout with an egg allergy that means he doesn’t eat eggs though cake is fine. I have two nut allergies one of which gets a “fuzzy” mouth and the other carries an epi pen.

Educate yourself and talk to those with allergies.


I do sympathize with those trying to plan meals for camp outs and events. Someone above mentioned the extra cost associated with eating gluten free and I can attest to that personally…plus, some of the options for typical snacks simply do not taste great. I agree with educating yourself. My advice since we live this life is to involve the child so that he/she learns to advocate for themselves in group planning around food. That is a life skill. If the child is younger, engage the parent as well.


@SusanKerpan That’s the best advice. Nobody knows better than the Scouts and their families what is OK and not OK for them to eat. Get them in the discussion, and do whatever you can to incorporate their needs – it may be easier to do than you think it is…

Gluten does not only come from Wheat. As a celiac with a celiac child I know a thing or two about Gluten. It comes from wheat, barley, and very often oats (as they are usually highly contaminated by wheat and barley during harvest or in fields). Contamination is a major issue for celiacs as we get violently ill from breadcrumbs in butter. Or from good cooked in oil where batter fried or breaded foods were also cooked.

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@BCotter, our pack is 65 and our den is 17. When my son was diagnosed as a celiac our den leader immediately notified all the parents to bring only GF food. I told him that was unnecessary , but then he asked “if I told you another scout was allergic to nuts would you bring only nut free snacks?” I responded “of course” at which point he said we’d proceed with only GF snacks.
Pack is a little different. When we potluck we do clearly label items GF, and always have at least one GF item which is segregated usually we have 4-5 options for the few of GF kids and parents.
Our den is also nut free as we added a scout with a nut allergy Last year. Again pack is different but things are always labeled and segregated. If the allergy were anaphylactic we would require exclusively nut free foods.
This is how our pack/den has handled it.

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