Re: Communal eating question from new UK group
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2002 17:01:09 -0700 (MST)
> Hello from Springhill, Stroud England
> We are a group of 30 families currently building a co-housing project in
> Stroud, Gloucestershire ( Now that building has started
> we are concentrating on the common house and the way in which we see
> ourselves living there. We are very exc ited at the prospect of eating
> together but find the organisation of such a task a challenge to say the
> least.  It would be very helpful to hear about other communities
> experiences and how they have managed to accomplish this feat.  We are
> particularly co ncerned about administration (meal planning, food
> ordering, keeping accounts etc.) and the amount of time that will need to
> be devoted to it.

The payment part is actually easy. We have meal cards and set meal prices of
$4 and $2 for kids. People pay by check, in advance for a meal card of 10
meals. The cards are kept in the kitchen and people sign when they eat a
meal. All the checks go to a checking account from which cooks are
reimbursed for their expenses.

Meals are the one thing I feel disappointed in and they were the one feature
I was most looking forward to. Cooking for a one person is a drag. I never
eat enough vegetables.

Our group is large (75 residents now) and people often invite guests to
meals. 25+ is the standard and for a nice meal, 50 is not unheard of. Then
there is the range of eaters from meat to vegetarian to vegan. I eat a very
low carb diet (or should) so most meals are out of the question for me.
People tend to cook beans and rice, perhaps with a little meat thrown in.
The only vegetable is salad. As good as the meals are, I really need
vegetables -- not starch. This seems to be an impossible concept for large

I spend on average a full day a week (often much more) on community work of
various kinds so I have not offered to cook. Perhaps 4 years in there will
be time. In the meantime, if I go early, I stand around. If I go late there
is nothing left that I can eat. Meals are also loud. (Acoustics is one of
the projects I am working on.) I usually take a plate and go back to my

And none of this is the fault of the cooks who do wonderful meals -- too
wonderful -- too many people!

So meals are not as easy as they sound sometimes but paying for them is not
the hard part.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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