BSA tries a whole new (app-enabled) recipe for Jamboree meals, and it’s a success

This is what you call mixing things up.

At the 2017 National Jamboree, the Jamboree Food Team puts the power back in Scouts’ and Venturers’ hands, introducing a completely new approach to meal planning.

Previous Jamborees used a fixed menu with preselected ingredients that troops picked up before each meal. For 2017, the Jamboree moves to a grocery store system where Scouts and Venturers can select a recipe, build a shopping list and check out — all through an innovative new app.

“We wanted to give Scouts more choices than they had at previous Jamborees. It was always a set menu. You would go to your base camp food tent, you’d get a bin full of the ingredients, bring it back and cook,” says Ken Reiter, a volunteer whose efforts were instrumental in making this new plan work. “Part of this was to allow the Scouts to have some choices.”

Shopping with points

Here’s how it works: Instead of money, Jamboree troops use points to buy groceries from a Costco-style store within their subcamps. Inside these large, white tents are shelves of staples like bread, ketchup and breakfast cereal. Each item has a point value: 5 points for a bottle of mustard, 25 points for a big box of Nutri-Grain bars, 20 points for a giant jar of marinara sauce.

Troops get an allotment of 2,017 points per day. (Wonder where they came up with that number …) This must cover all the food they’ll need for dinner, as well as breakfast and lunch the next day.

With a fixed amount of points that cannot be replenished until the next day, Scouts must create and stick to a budget. If they spend all their points on Oreos or Powerade mix, that’s what they’ll eat and drink for the next 24 hours. (Though the snack bars still take old-fashioned cash and credit cards.)

“It is something that helps to give them a real-life experience,” Reiter says. “You have a limited amount of resources — in this case it’s points instead of money. It helps to teach them some real-world life lessons.”

Just a tap away

How do Scouts and Venturers keep track of recipes, shopping lists and their troop’s remaining point balance? Through an app, of course.

Reiter, a volunteer in the Palmetto Council, headquartered in Spartanburg, S.C., spent 18 months developing a custom Jamboree version of an existing app called Swift Shopper.

“All the Scouts have a smartphone,” he says. “If we made this a smartphone app, they would be able to pick up on how to use this very quickly.”

Everything is done through the app. Scouts select a Jamboree-suggested recipe — loaded mac and cheese or Jambo-laya, anyone? — or use available ingredients to create a meal plan from scratch. Their shopping list shows them how many points everything will cost, making budgeting a breeze.

Once at the grocery store, Scouts use their phone’s camera to scan an item’s barcode. This adds it to their virtual cart. Scouts then place their groceries into their physical cart, check out and wheel the haul back to camp to start cooking.

Brendan Short, 14, a First Class Scout from the Circle Ten Council in Dallas, says his troop likes being able to pick its own meals.

“We can ask the troop, ‘do you want burgers or do you want tacos?'” he says. “We can get what we want.”


Thanks to Rick Diles, Jamboree Food Team director, and Greg Winters for their help with this story.