Providing meals at the World Championships is only partly a functional exercise. They can also be combined with a social event, cultural experience or at least some useful announcements.
Expected level of provisionEdit
Participants will expect their registration fee to include all breakfasts, as well as perhaps 7 lunches and 7 dinners during the 10 days of the event. Packed lunches are fine on "tourist days". It isn't necessary to provide every single meal, and in fact many people prefer to be left to explore the city and buy their own meals on some occasions. However, most participants - particularly those on smaller budgets - will certainly thank you for providing as many meals as possible. Many would prefer to get more food in exchange for slightly less glamorous accommodation, rather than arriving in a plush business hotel only to find that they must fend for themselves each night. Please ensure that you notify all participants - as early as possible before the tournament, and in the schedule they receive on arrival - how many and which meals the host nation will be providing.
The hotel/hostel must be able to provide a nutritious breakfast for all participants (often 300 or more) at the same time and preferably in the same place. According to the schedule, lunches will be eaten in different venues, often in schools, and evening meals either in the hotel or at other venues in accordance with the programme of events.
On debating days, you will find lunch arrangements to be the most complicated. At past Championships, the host schools have provided lunch and this seems to be an excellent and practical tradition to be continued. Lunch arrangements must be carefully coordinated with the different host schools, and it should be made clear prior to the competition who is providing the food and how. It's important to ensure that debaters can get nutritious meals between debates - understandably, coaches do not take kindly to their debaters being moved to the next prep room or debate room before they have had a chance to refuel.
You also need to be clear who is paying for lunch. Some schools may take the cost upon themselves (or their PTA) or might be covered by the local education authority; others will expect to be reimbursed by the competition administration. Schools generally are happy to make it a community event to feed their international guests; sometimes the most interesting food will be local fare made by a student, parent or teacher.
What is harder is deciding how many people to cater for at each venue. If you think that 25 people are attending a school, invariably 40 will. But while debaters who haven't been able to manage much breakfast might eat like horses after a debate, "catering for 25" will often be translated into "lavish feast for 25", which they might not be able to eat if there's only an hour between debates. If your budget allows for it, and if you know that host teachers and students will tuck in after the guests have disappeared, the best advice is to cater for slightly more people than you expect.
For evening meals, you'll need to research which venues are big enough to host all of your participants in reasonable comfort. You might find that most of these venues are big hotels, and that they will charge particularly high prices for food. Don't assume that you can just book a large venue then arrange your own catering; many places will only allow you to use their own, in-house caterers, or might demand that you choose from an approved list. On evenings when you aren't providing a meal but a debate is taking place, you should ensure that debaters have the time and the opportunity to eat something first.
Finally, please make sure that water is in plentiful supply at all mealtimes, particularly those prior to debates.
Whenever you are providing meals, or asking others to provide them, you need to take account of dietary requirements (and, of course, you must make room on your registration form for participants to list such requirements). Special attention should be paid to the possibilities of providing vegetarian/vegan food, kosher food for observant Jews and halal meat for observant Muslims. The possibilities vary from country to country and town to town but the problem has to be faced and solutions found if at all feasible. It should be possible to get guidance and advice from the heads of the local Jewish and Muslim communities, if they exist.
One school in New Zealand in 1994 turned the catering exercise into a school project for their domestic science students. The students researched the various religious and dietary needs and came up with dishes that would suit, which they made themselves. This made a relatively mundane issue into something interesting and educational for the students, and they were very proud that their efforts at research and cooking were so successful. But domestic science or cooking teachers would need to be involved at an early stage if they wanted to turn this into an educational project.
During free timeEdit
On "get your own dinner" nights, the wealthier of us can take taxis to the nice part of town and dine via credit card. The less wealthy of us hope for nearby foodhalls with cheap local cuisine that is not McDonald's.
Every little helps when it comes to taking the edge off the financial burden for participants. Although you might not be providing them with dinner, you might be able to negotiate good discounts at local restaurants for WSDC participants showing their badges. Tell the restaurants all about the tournament and get them enthused about playing a part.
And if you've decided to drop everybody off at a local attraction on a Sunday afternoon without a packed lunch, make sure that there are a couple of cafes, or at least an open supermarket, nearby!