RE: Not eating common meals. yechh.
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Sat, 17 Jan 1998 14:38:02 -0600
Community meals, when you examine it, are quite miraculous. I know of no other 
neighborhood situation where people regularily cook food for each other , so 
this is something quite unusual and unique to communities.

Community meals are great places to really get an understanding of your 
neighbors and their lives. Even if you don't like the food, you would benefit 
from taking your own food to community dinner and sitting and listening and 
sharing with others over mealtime. 

 If kids are allowed to run around and be loud at dinner the non-parents may 
find the noise and activity inappropriate, whereas parents have a much higher 
tolerance for noise and kid activity. To put it on a numeric scale of ten 
where ten is loud and one is quiet, most parents would be about a 7, and many 
non-parents about a 2. This can result in non-parents dropping out of meals 
cause its just too loud and chaotic, or can result in friction and conflict, 
which will eventually get resoloved by putting restrictions on kid noise and 
activity. Parents perspectives and non-parents perspectives on kid appropriate 
behavior often form a wide gulf. This can really blow up on you so pay 
attention to it.  

Other things that will keep people from community meals is the peer pressure 
expectations for cooking. If you have a setup where you have to cook in order 
to be a participant, those who can't or don't want to will drop out. Cooking 
is something that can be very unenjoyable even stressful for some folks and 
generally people won't do this too long if they feel that way about it. 
Forcing them too do something they don't want will eventually lead to unhappy 
situations. Better to encourage those who find joy in cooking, than to punish 
or guilt trip those whose joys lie elsewhere.

Another barrier to meals can be time. It can take quite a bit of prep time to 
make a meal and some folks have lives that are time stretched. (although, on 
the other hand, some of the people I know that claim to be too time stretched 
to do things, still find time to watch 4-6 hours of TV - but that's another 
subject). If you set up so community meals happen on weekends, or on Mondays 
so people can use Sunday as a prep day, it takes the load off those who are 
time crunched. We have a Saturday breakfast that works well as far as sign up 
goes, most always there is a Saturday breakfast, where as Thursday dinners are 
pretty hit and miss as far as sign ups goes.

A finally barrier is the accounting of it all. It can be a largish task to 
figure this out and track it. There are a wide variety of systems used, from 
chits, to cash at the door, to acculative monthly payments and debts. Each 
system has its advocates and you will want to experiment around.

Rob Sandelin

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