Louisiana Chick-fil-A has summer camp that teaches children to be workers; public divided

A Louisiana-based Chick-fil-A is under fire for announcing a “summer camp” program that teaches children “how to be a Chick-fil-A worker” for $35 a session.

The franchise location in Hammond, about 45 miles northwest of New Orleans, promoted its “very first” Chick-fil-A summer camp on June 5, writing in a Facebook post that children between the ages of 5 and 12 would get a “behind-the-scenes look” inside the fast-food restaurant.

They do throw in some perks, offering participants a kid's meal, T-shirt, name tag and snack for a one-time $35 payment for the three-hour "camo." The offer generated so much interest, that the store within 24 hours of the post, the store offered additional slots.

The Chick-fil-A said on June 7 that they were “completely booked,” reminding parents and guardians that they should have received an email with a payment link if they signed up to attend sessions, which are set to kick off the third week of July.

Multiple people were at odds in the comments under the announcement, with many expressing concerns over the notion of a summer camp that involves children working.

“When I was a kid we didn’t go to child labor camps, we went to actual summer camp … swimming in a lake, riding horses, archery, campfires and smores,” Michael Thomas wrote in the comments.

Neither the Chick-fil-A franchisee nor national spokespeople for the company responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment on Thursday.

Here’s what we know.

‘Chick-fil-A summer camp’ elicits mixed responses

We are completely booked. Those that have signed up for the first week should have received an email with the payment...

Posted by Chick-fil-A West Hammond Hwy 190 on Thursday, June 6, 2024

The idea of a “fast food” summer camp has proved to be a pretty divisive topic, with many people shaming the Hammond location for promoting child labor.

“This is horrifying. You are getting parents to pay you for forced labor,” Angie Dobransky wrote in the comments.

Erika Verberne wrote that she wasn't a fan of the "stage of capitalism we are in right now."

"If this wasn’t a 'Christian' company and say, a local McDonald’s, would y'all be over the moon for paying for the exploitation of your child ?" she asked.

Other people, including Rhiannon Thornburg-Vermande, wondered if the staff who is running the camp had experience or the proper certification to be working with children.

“They are taking children as young as five. Do the restaurant workers have any licensure in dealing with small children? Do they have the training to keep 30 young children safe in a commercial kitchen?” Thornburg-Vermande wrote. "It's seriously unsafe to just leave your child at a fast food restaurant with strangers.”

A couple people went as far as tagging the U.S. Department of Labor.

Others were more supportive, writing that it is good for children to learn the value of “work ethic and responsibility.” Some reflected on their own experiences visiting local businesses or restaurants on field trips to see how things were made.

“I’ll go against the grain here. Kudos to you, Chick-Fil-A Hammond. It’s nice to see an offer to teach young children about work ethic and responsibility, while having a little fun at the same time,” Haley Hernandez Maskew wrote. “I’ll ask my daughter if she’s interested in attending.”

Monica Reese Fontenot wished she had known about Chick-fil-A summer camp earlier, writing that her son “LOVES Chick-Fil-A and would have absolutely loved to participate.”

“Kids love to experience things like this, and I can guarantee none of them are forced! Thanks Chick-Fil-A for always being involved in and contributing to our community," she wrote. "That’s the part everyone misses, how much Chick-Fil-A does! I’m always getting freebies, rewards, and we see the community engagement."

Reports: Chick-fil-A responds, but declines to offer specifics

It’s not immediately clear what kinds of tasks or activities the kids will do at the Chick-fil-A summer camp since the brand declined to comment or offer specifics, according to reporting by TODAY.

Chick-fil-A representatives told TODAY that the kids won't be doing the work of restaurant staffers but that they'll be doing "activities" with "employees serving as counselors."

Another Chick-fil-A location also is putting on a summer camp, which runs May through August, in New Orleans. That location says that campers will learn how to “take orders, deliver orders, make drinks, and be a hostess," according to a post advertising the camp.

The Chick-fil-A restaurant isn’t the first to be open a summer camp. A Houston-area Chick-fil-A started its still-running experience six years ago with activities like bingo and trivia, TODAY reported.

Company spokespeople told TODAY that the stores aren't profiting from the camps but allow local franchises a unique way to "engage with their neighbors."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Some flock to Chick-fil-A 'summer camp,' others call it child labor