If You're Running a Summer Camp, Here's What You Should Know About GPOs

Running a summer camp is a costly business. Learn how joining a food cost reduction program can help save money and time this camp season.

By Mackenzie Oakley | March 21, 2023


A version of this article was originally published for the American Camp Association. It has been updated for supporting content and clarity.

As a group purchasing organization, Una is passionate about leveraging the combined purchasing power of our members to lock in savings on the goods and services they need to run their businesses. This includes delivering savings in multiple indirect spend categories like technology, shipping and freight, JanSan, facilities maintenance, and more.

When it comes to servicing the food category space, Una focuses our efforts on leveraging the combined food purchasing needs of our members to lock in savings on their food orders, while at the same time adding value by working directly with food distributors to streamline all service-related processes.

Together, we give you the satisfaction of always having more options, more savings, and more overall value for wherever your food program is in need.

Costs associated with running a summer camp

While any organization that has food purchasing needs can join Una, our niche currently includes serving college campus communities, greek chapters, and more. Our team also serves several large spring and summer camps, outdoor communities, food management companies, and property management groups.

Summer camp administrators across the country are still being impacted by the rising cost of food, while trying to anticipate the full impact these higher prices will have on their summer food programs again this year.

From January 2022 to January 2023, consumers saw at-home food prices soar 11.3%. The rising costs have undoubtedly impacted the foodservice industry as well, with restaurants having to increase menu prices while combating a higher cost of labor and staff shortages.

What kinds of challenges will this ongoing inflationary environment create for camps? Will the budget have to shift away from the number or types of activities offered to cover the rising cost of food? Will programs have to decrease the number of staffers they hire this summer or limit the number of campers they accept into the program altogether? 

Administrators who are running summer camps can partner with a GPO to take advantage of food cost reductions programs to save money, time, and effort this camp season.

How to combat rising food costs

Luckily, camps have the option of joining food cost reduction programs offered by group purchasing organizations to save money and combat the rising costs of their summer food programs.

A group purchasing organization, or GPO, is a platform that leverages the collective buying power of its members to obtain volume discounts from suppliers and retailers. Any type of business, including summer camps and youth programs, can join a GPO to take advantage of the “strength in numbers” concept when purchasing the goods and services it needs to function.

A GPO partner can help secure the best prices on everything from facilities maintenance and pest control to safety supplies, and more – including any and all food purchases. And when a substantial portion of spend is dedicated to feeding campers and staff, utilizing a GPO’s services presents an opportunity to see significant savings on those items.

In addition to joining a GPO, another option for camps is to outsource their food program to a food service management company. Staff shortages and labor costs could be a very real concern going into the summer camp season so outsourcing your food operations to a reliable third party is a valuable resource available in the camp space. Some GPOs also have existing relationships established with various management companies and can assist camp administrators with finding the right fit.

Benefits of joining a GPO to reduce summer camp food costs

This summer, there is no reason for camp administrators to be navigating the uncertainty surrounding rising food costs alone. There are several benefits to bringing in an expert partner to help manage these costs so you can focus on what’s most important – the youth you serve and the staff you entrust to make their camp experiences memorable.

Cost savings

Cost savings is undoubtedly important this season, and the savings you’ll see by partnering with a foodservice GPO is a definite and immediate perk. The right GPO partner will have a food cost reduction program lined with substantial contracts from the best suppliers, offering prices you might not be able to access otherwise. Upon joining a food program, members typically see an average savings of 22% from suppliers like US Foods and Sysco

Speed to savings

Because GPO partners already have existing contracts in place, it’s easy for camps like yours to get connected to savings quickly, meaning there is still time to reduce your costs ahead of the upcoming camp season. The money you save can be reallocated back into your youth programs, giving you the chance to create the camp experience you desire.

Dedicated resources

Any program you join should help alleviate your concerns and provide resources that help reach your goals. However, not all foodservice GPOs offer a dedicated team for customer service-related issues so before joining, be sure to understand how much support they’re willing to provide.

Look for a GPO that is upfront with contact information, offers an easy way to work through supply chain issues, and can solve day-to-day problems that may arise in your camp’s kitchen quickly.

Free membership

Next to cost savings, the biggest perk of joining a food cost reduction program might be that most foodservice GPOs offer free membership. Any camp or youth program can capitalize on the GPO’s buying power to save money and will benefit from the extra support they provide without having to pay membership fees, commit to certain purchasing volumes or become locked into certain contracts. 

Bringing in an expert partner to help manage summer camp costs lets administrators focus on what matters most - the youth they serve and the staff they entrust to make their camp experiences memorable.

Food category experts

Una’s team of food category experts has over 25 years of experience developing relationships with food distributors to bring our members significant savings and make a difference within the organizations we serve. Our foodservice GPO structure takes the guesswork out of pricing models, trucking, and food distribution, and gives our members the peace of mind that their food programs are operating as efficiently as possible.

Brian Heider is a culinary school graduate and trained Chef. He’s at the helm of Una’s vision to secure the best pricing possible for our members, regardless of the size of their food purchases. He has personal relationships with the members we help on a daily basis, along with the representatives from our food contract providers.

Marissa Muzik serves as Una’s National Account Manager, and is the touchpoint for all things food service related for members. She conducts market baskets and food cost analyses, knows the details of each food contract, and remains up-to-date on pricing models and any cost adjustments that may impact our members’ bottom lines.

Save money on food costs

The current conditions surrounding the cost of food is stressful but camps and youth programs don’t need to carry the burden alone. There are resources and programs available that can help offset the rising food prices while still offering quality, nutritious items to your campers and staff.

Join a food cost reduction program ahead of this year’s camp season to save money, time, and effort. Use Una’s free cost savings calculator below to see how much you could be saving today.

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