Since 2007, teens have learned about eating healthy at Christiana Care’s Camp FRESH, helping them to serve as ambassadors of nutrition and wise lifestyle choices in their communities.
Over the years, Camp FRESH has sprouted important initiatives to help teens make good choices that will enhance their physical and emotional wellness, such as exercise routines and coping skills.
Josh Yearwood, 17, of Wilmington is the first camp graduate to become a full-fledged counselor. Over the five years he has attended Camp FRESH, he has learned a lot about taking responsibility for his own well-being. He watches Dr. Mehmet Oz on TV to pick up more tips.
“I learned that if you eat with your left hand, you have to stop and think about eating,” Josh says. “It isn’t automatic, like it is when you eat with your dominant hand.”
An important part of the Camp FRESH mission is to share the importance of eating healthy foods with the community. Josh’s mother is now growing herbs in their yard. On a recent evening, she cooked a stew of lamb and lentils with fresh broccoli.
“It was nutritious—and really good, too,” Josh says.
The skills he gained working in the Camp FRESH kitchen helped him to land his first job—as a pastry chef at Columbus Inn in Wilmington. This fall, Josh will enter Valley Forge Military Academy.
“Being a counselor here has helped me with leadership,” he says. “I’ve learned how to gather input from the campers so I can make decisions.”
Last year, Camp FRESH facilitators asked campers to make suggestions on how to improve the program. Teens recommended new activities, such as an outing to a pool and watching movies. Josh suggested bringing in a speaker from Planned Parenthood to talk with teens about contraception and preventing sexually transmitted diseases.
“When kids are educated, they can make healthier decisions,” he says.
All three suggestions were incorporated into this year’s program.
“They can give their opinion and not be judged for it,” he says. “We treat the campers like young adults, not children.”
Camp FRESH, short for Fresh Resources Everyone Should Have, educates youths age 13-18 who live in Wilmington and New Castle. Camp takes place at Christiana Care’s Eugene du Pont Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute at Pelleport. This year, 45 teens are enrolled in the program, including nine junior counselors who serve as mentors to younger campers.
Daevon Clarke of Wilmington, who just graduated from Howard High School of Technology, is a junior counselor. He says his three years at Camp FRESH have taught him skills he will take with him to the Art Institute of New York City, where he will study fashion design.
“Camp FRESH helped me to separate short-term goals from long-term goals,” he says.
In the early years of the program, campers surveyed neighborhoods in the city and confirmed that access to fresh fruits and vegetables was limited.
Since then, two supermarkets have opened in under-served communities—ShopRite on the Christina riverfront and Food Lion in Edgemoor. This year, campers again surveyed consumers in Wilmington’s Rodney Square to learn more about where city residents shop and what they eat.
Landra McCurtis of Wilmington, a second-year camper, says the stores have made it easier for her mother to buy nutritious foods. On a recent morning, her mom made her a fruit smoothie with nectarines and plums. Landra, 14, also has persuaded her to bake chicken instead of frying it.
“I don’t like fried foods anymore,” she says. “I would rather have brown rice and salad.”
Kyle Zeitler, a 16-year-old from New Castle, applied for the program on the recommendation of a teacher.
“At first, I was shy and I didn’t know anybody,” he says. “But now I enjoy the conversations—and I ask my parents for string beans.”