Camp closes for season after food supply issues

  • A group of campers sit at Camp Quinebarge. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 7/18/2021 1:35:04 PM

The summer was barely getting started at Camp Quinebarge in Moultonborough when it abruptly ended.

On July 2, the camp’s directors informed parents the camp was closing immediately due to an ongoing lack of staff and a sudden problem getting food deliveries from their supplier, Sysco.

“While we can work through many issues at camp, this is not one in our control. Many camps are facing the prospect of closing today,” the camp’s leaders wrote. “This is obviously an untenable situation. A few minutes ago I was forced to inform our staff we will close down for the summer, beginning tomorrow.”

Multiple other summer camps across New Hampshire have been experiencing similar trouble with staffing and food suppliers.

Camp Huckins in Freedom had issues with their main food vendor Performance Food Group.

“We were impacted when PFG stopped their seasonal deliveries to camps because they had a shortage of drivers, as they were a major provider for us,” said Executive Director Heather Kiley.

However, Kiley said they were able to rely more on other suppliers to keep the camp running.

A PFG spokesperson said that delays were a result of supply chain issues and a labor shortage that have been affecting the whole industry. Because of the issues the company would be unable to meet the needs of every camp and that customers would be given advanced notice of delays.

Just down the road in Freedom, Camp Calumet was also struggling to get food deliveries from Sysco. Executive Director Karl Ogren thinks the issue is more the result of the overall labor shortage than with any food supplier in particular.

“The problem is widespread and it does not seem fair to just blame Sysco. Other food suppliers are not delivering at all. The supply chain seems to be very broken,” Ogren said.

The camp has tried to mitigate late orders by obtaining food on its own.

“It is just another bump in a very complicated year and a half for the camping industry,” Ogren said.

Sysco did not respond to a request for interview.

At Quinebarge, the food shortage proved to be a fatal blow, just as parents and campers were excited to return.

“This has been a summer of challenges, beginning with staffing levels, when in a two-day period just 10 of 25 staff arrived. In all, just 36 of 60 original hires arrived,” the camp told parents. “Sysco has been erratic, and the logistics of testing and check-in procedures have just piled on. While we were working through all this, pivoting almost hourly, the food issue was sudden and obviously critical.”

Compared to normal years, enrollment was up by 20% this year and all spots were expected to fill up. In June, all six-week sessions at a cost of $8,000 and a full eight-week session at a cost of $9,800 were full. Just a few spots for two-week and four-week sessions for were still open.

Camp Executive Director Eric Carlson said the lack of food deliveries proved too difficult to overcome.

“We had delayed orders and were told to expect more in the future,” said Carlson.

With short staffing levels, going out and buying hundreds of pounds of food wasn’t going to work out, Carlson said

“Going to BJs was not an option for us as it would have taken too many staff and vehicles going back and forth all day.” Carlson said.

Companies across the state have reported a shortage of available workers, particularly seasonal help and hospitality jobs.

“I believe the staffing issues are part of the general trend of a lack of staffers throughout the economy,” Carlson said. “Every camp is facing staffing shortages, but so is every business it seems.

Quinebarge was working to issue refunds to parents, but asked for patience.

“The kids have overwhelmingly been enjoying themselves, particularly the unstructured time with their cabin mates, and making friends, and we so wanted to continue to provide the summer experience our kids need,” the camp told parents in early July. “There have been lots of happy faces, singing and laughing. We love providing this happy and inclusive and enriching environment and hope to do so again.”

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