This post was contributed by Nima community member Christina Bradic who used her Nima sensor to test items at Camp Agape Northwest. 

At Camp Agape Northwest, we host children with cancer and their families. We give these children a time to feel normal, their siblings a time to feel special, and parents a time to be together. We made camp happen for 23 families this year by utilizing nearly 100 volunteers.

Gluten-Free Summer Camp: happy campers

Why use Nima

We wanted Nima at camp because we are a camp that is built on caring for others. For more than 20 years, we have been a place where families can feel safe, relaxed, and understood. We cannot fulfill this mission if families do not feel safe doing something as simple as eating. We are also passionate about caring for our volunteers and keeping them healthy throughout camp.

The kitchen at our full-service overnight camp prepares fresh meals each day. In addition, there is an espresso bar, a milkshake stand, and plenty of snacks available. We prepare any meal requested, even Cheetos milkshakes (although only once, per request)!

The kitchen, as you can imagine, is busy. There are a lot of people coming and going, and it is a shared space with other groups throughout the year. Families in fragile circumstances trust the staff of Camp Agape Northwest to care for them. We do not want to make anyone sick by accidentally giving them gluten because of a hectic workspace.

For the 2018 camp session, we had 17 gluten free campers and volunteers, including four with celiac disease. We wanted to incorporate Nima into our kitchen to make sure we were preparing food safely, double checking our ingredients, and not putting anyone’s health in jeopardy.

How Nima was used in the camp kitchen

Our first step with Nima was to test all of our spices to make sure they were gluten free. Once the product received a smiley face, we marked it as gluten free so that our cooks would know that it was safe to use.

Gluten-Free Summer Camp: nima testing

Testing spices with Nima!

Oftentimes, meals are made to be inherently gluten free at Camp Agape Northwest, such as roasted chicken (made with Nima-tested spices), potatoes, and a salad. This year, we decided to take it a step further and investigate a new question: if our meals were prepared outside of the taped-off gluten free area, would they still be safe? We tested with Nima to check, which resulted in this assuring gluten free roasted potato!

Gluten-Free Summer Camp: nima testing

Testing a roasted potato with Nima, that was prepared in the gluten-free section of the kitchen.

Since the best Tuesdays are always filled with tacos, the Mobile Food Command Center came out for the day to give us a taco lunch! Knowing about our gluten-free needs ahead of time, they prepared a naturally gluten- and dairy-free dish for us. When we asked them to test the food, were very excited…and a bit nervous because they work so hard to accommodate allergies. We tested the tortilla, taco filling, rice, and beans — the Nima was happy! The Mobile Food Command Center was so excited that they began contemplating getting a Nima for their truck and restaurants.

Gluten-Free Summer Camp: nima testing

Testing taco makings from the Mobile Food Command Center with Nima!

Kevin, who works in our kitchen, has a special gluten free chocolate chip cookie that he makes at home. When we prepared it at camp, the dough got a Nima smiley face! We wondered, however, the following: If we baked the cookies in the camp oven, which is a convection oven that swirls air (and may take crumbs with it) would they still be safe? We baked the cookies without using the oven’s convection setting, and the treats came out safe. They were also delicious! We might have even enjoyed them for breakfast once or twice….

Gluten-Free Summer Camp: nima testing in the kitchen

Testing gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.

Typically, our late-night ‘fourth meals’ get less attention and are prepared for volunteers who stay up late. There’s no doubt that our cheesy fries and tater tots are hard to resist, and a camp mom with celiac disease even asked us if they were gluten free. We happily pulled out our Nima sensor and its smile sent more smiles all around!

Gluten-Free Summer Camp: nima testing

Testing cheesy fries and tater tots — all Nima smiles!

How did it work out?

While testing food at camp, we got plenty of Nima smiley faces. This made our kitchen staff feel confident that their attentive efforts pay off. Nima is now a camp staple because it provides confidence to both the staff and the families. It is also a valuable tool to help safeguard against cross-contamination. At Camp Agape Northwest, the whole kitchen staff agrees that it is always better to double check than to guess, especially when it comes to people’s’ health.

It can be difficult to place your trust in a camp to care for your child or family, especially while going through a taxing experience like cancer. Nima added one more layer of safety to assure these families that they are loved and cared for.