Gravatt Camp and Conference Center is an Episcopal camp and retreat center located in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. Like many diocesan camps and retreat centers, it’s a place where communities are created and God is experienced. A lot of that happens around the dinner table.
For as long as most people can remember, Gravatt has been known for its delicious food. In my first year as executive director in 2007, I gained the “freshman 15,” thanks to the crispy fried chicken, buttery biscuits, and Gravatt squares (a delightfully decadent peanut butter and chocolate treat that is nicely paired with a glass of milk). Ask any adult who had been to Gravatt, and what they remembered most fondly was the food.
I attended a conference of the Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers at the Duncan Gray Center in Mississippi in January 2009, and it was there that I first heard the term “food philosophy” at one of the breakout sessions. I came back energized to develop our food philosophy – to truly become intentional about the food we serve and the impact it has on our guests and campers. Clearly food was an important part of what we were doing, but I wanted to be sure that through our food, we were speaking our values.
It took almost three years for us to complete our food philosophy and get it on paper. During that time we had discussions about what we wanted to say with our food. We knew that we wanted to feed more than people’s bellies, but also their hearts, heads, and souls. We don’t always follow it perfectly, but we strive to do so. Writing the philosophy down and referring to it often, we have raised expectation on ourselves, and as a result have improved the quality of our food and the experience of our guests enjoying it.
Since developing our food philosophy, Gravatt has:
All of these changes were made consciously as a result of our food philosophy. It’s been an exciting process that continues to evolve. Developing a food philosophy can also be important in our churches and homes and will make people healthier as well as increase good stewardship practices.
Lauri SoJourner is the Executive Director of Gravatt Camp and Conference Center, where she lives on site with her husband, four children, and a small zoo of animals. She can be reached at email@example.com or contact the Bishop Gravatt Center 803.648.1817.