(This is part 12 in our ongoing series on Planning Your Retreat)
When we consider last week’s discussion of the power of food and the far-reaching effects that this surprisingly complex issue has upon our lives, it becomes apparent that effective planning regarding food for your retreat is crucial. Meals are an important activity to prepare for—these times offer your guests a unique opportunity to establish and build rapport and relationships.
Although many of us may regard the activity of eating as merely routine or mundane—or simply a physical necessity—there are many factors that must be considered when bringing a group of people together for an extended period of time. When we recognize that the matter of food includes not only physical importance but also physiological, spiritual, social, psychological, educational and economic considerations, we then begin to understand that we cannot afford to take this aspect of our retreat planning lightly. You will want to seek that moderate ground, found somewhere between simply tossing some food onto a table and, alternatively, surveying each guest to ascertain his/her personal preferences, expectations, food beliefs and favorite foods.
So, what are some of the more important questions to contemplate as you plan food for your retreat?
- How long will your retreat be? This will determine how many meals will be needed.
- What about snacks and/or beverages between meals and during the late evening hours?
- Do your prospective guests have any known religious/spiritual parameters to consider?
- What about special dietary needs that must be considered, such as diabetic, heart, or gluten-free concerns?
- Will you need (or want) to accommodate special dietary preferences, such as vegan, vegetarian, etc.?
- Are sit-down eating accommodations available at your event venue?
- How will food be provided: On-site cooking by members of your group? Already-prepared food brought by retreat participants? Catering? Eating at local restaurants? Meals prepared by on-site chef? When contemplating each of these options, you will want to address considerations such as cost, accessibility and transportation needs, expectations/needs of your guests, time constraints, and availability of refrigeration and food preparation areas.
Here at Mt. Chestnut Nazarene Retreat Center, we are pleased to offer a wide range of food choices prepared by our on-site chef. Our retreat guests appreciate Chef Ed’s friendly personality, his sincere desire to offer great food at a reasonable price and, of course, his culinary skill in preparing delicious foods to meet the needs and please the palates of your group members.
However you choose to feed your retreat participants, keep in mind that their tastes and preferences regarding food will have many components. Your planning should take as many of these into account as is reasonably possible.