Re: Community dinner economics
From: Jeffrey O. Hobson (
Date: Sun, 7 Aug 94 13:32 CDT
At N St. Cohousing:

Overall Logistics:
- 2 adults (occasionally 3, or a kid) cook and clean for each meal (in the
rest of this message, I will type "cook" when I mean "cook and clean")
- Cooks sign up to cook at the end of the previous month.
- Meals are 3-5 days a week in good weeks, 1-3 in bad weeks.  We encourage
no more than four in a week.  
- Meals can be any day of the week, but Friday/Saturday, and to a certain
extent Sunday, are discouraged.  
- Meal signup sheet is supposed to be posted a week in advance (3-4 days is
more typical).
- Sign-up sheets include: date, time (almost always 6:30pm), names of cooks,
- Meal attendance ranges from 15 (very low) to 45 (huge).  Average is 25,
25-35 is normal (including kids).
- Who cooks/who doesn't: the rule is: if you attend at least 8 meals a
month, you are expected to cook once a month.  If you attend less than 8,
you are expected to cook once for every 8 meals you eat.  No one keeps track.

- The day or so before the meal, the cooks look over their sign-up sheet,
figure out how much food they need, and obtain it all themselves.  
- Cooks add up the cost of the food, divide it by the number of attendees,
add $0.25 meal tax per adult, and list the charge for the meal.  Kids always
pay $0.75.  Meat & Veg prices are often listed separately.  
- Meal prices range from $0.25 (including the meal tax - leftover from the
festival) to $3.40 (the husband of one of the cooks sat outside the common
house, picking his guitar and singing, "if ya brought three dollars, better
go home and grab some more, if you brought three dollars, . . . ")
- Eaters pay by dropping money (or a check, for the cash-strapped) into a
basket next to the plates & utensils, and checking their names off the
sign-up sheet.

Getting food:
- While the cooks are responsible for providing all the raw materials for
their meal, the community has some commonly-purchased items: spices, oil,
and vinegar come to mind - also some others I can't remember.  In addition,
people who obtain food by other means (see below) often leave it, with a
note, in the common cupboards or refrigerator.  We are thus always supplied
with flour, sugar, soy sauce, and summer squash (incidentally, if anyone
would like to accept a tractor-trailer of zucchini, please email me directly).  
- Note on obtaining food: we have some unusual ways of acquiring food.  Of
course, there's the local co-op, the farmer's market, and people's gardens.
In addition, a few people in the community work at or with farms in the
area, and get free food that way.  An F.O.C. (Friend Of the Community) is a
dumpster diver, and brings us reclaimed food from behind the local grocery
stores.  It is amazing the high quality food our grocery stores throw away.
Overflow from special events also provides food (wedding, fund-raising booth
at festival, etc.)

Meal Contents:
- We have required a vegetarian option at every meal.  We are now
experimenting with a rule under which someone can cook a no-veg option meal
if they so indicate when the monthly calendar goes out.  This provisional
rule has been in effect for two months, with no takers so far.
- We have an allergies/"severe dislikes" list - cooks try to honor them, but
are not required  to.  
- Cooks are requested to state whether they expect to buy mostly
organically-produced food, and whether they expect to use post-dumpster
food.  Many forget about this request; others treat it with humor.  

Cook's responsibilities:
- Besides providing food, cooks are expected to do some other things: set up
tables & chairs, clear the dishes from the previous meal, provide drinking
water & cups on every table, clean up their dishes, wipe down countertops
and stovetops, sweep and mop the kitchen floor, and sweep the dining room

Jeffrey Hobson                                    N Street Cohousing 
dcn00109 [at]         Davis Energy Group

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