Food Matters In Wilderness Therapy

Would you be surprised if I told you THIS is the food our students are eating this week?

The traditional backpacker’s diet is known for dried meat, pasta, beans, and grains. Not exactly a rainbow of colorful fruits and veggies! At Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness our pursuit of the best possible nutrition for our students is constantly evolving. We work alongside a nutritionist to identify the optimal combination of calorie density, nutrients, protein, and carbohydrates to support the activity of backpacking without loading up on sugar and processed foods. This is challenging, because we also have the concern of weight as well as traditional foodie favorites of our staff and students.

Twice a week, “resupply” bins head to our groups in the field loaded up with food for the next three to four days. These bins are packed with perennial favorites like beans and rice, summer sausage, and torts, but they are also loaded with seasonal produce. We greatly minimize our use of big box food suppliers or grocery stores, because our produce is grown locally and delivered by August Produce, a local farm-to-table purveyor. For meat and cheese, we head to Andy’s Market in town. If we need to restock our oats or custom blended trail mix, we head about fifteen minutes up the road to our friends at Room Full of Nuts, where they have been providing granola, oats, and both regular and nut-free “GORP.”

Choosing local food means our students are getting the freshest food possible, and we are supporting the community and region in which we live. Local food is already known for reducing waste and costs (both fiscal and environmental), but we go a step further in reducing packaging by making sure fruit boxes are returned to the farmer to be used again instead of sending these boxes out to the recycle. While these practices are not seen by students in the woods, they mirror the principles we are modeling day in and day out to care for your body with fresh nutritious food, learning to cook over an open fire, caring for the community in which we live, and becoming mindful of our environmental impact. Food matters for the body, for promoting mental health, and for community!

Story was published at Blue Ridge wilderness.