Are meals an optional or required work expectation in your community?
From: David Heimann (
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2006 15:10:20 -0800 (PST)

Hello Everyone,

A year and a half ago we developed and adopted our work expectations policy. Part of the policy we adopted states the following:

Q: Is work involved in the community meal system counted towards a household's work expectation? A: No, the community meal system is separate from this proposal. The work expectations in this proposal do not include work done preparing for or cleaning up after regular community meals.

The rationale for this is that maintenance (indoor, outdoor, and administrative) are activities that must be accomplished because we live here. The activities must be done, everyone benefits from them, and so everyone must participate in doing them. Meals, on the other hand, are activities apart from the fact that we live here. A person may elect to participate in the meals or not participate. If a person participates they should do their share of the work, and if a person does not participate they don't need to do the work.

We therefore keep "regular" work hours and meal-keeping work hours separate, with regular work hours apportioned among everyone and meal-keeping work hours apportioned among those joining for those meals. Meal work cannot be credited to regular work, and vice versa.

Recently some of the folk who have been more heavily involved in meal shopping and preparation have been complaining about this. They find they are putting more time into meal work than many others participating in meals. The obvious thought of course is to use the assignment process we have to make sure that others take more of the meal workload if they wish to continue participating. The heavily-involved-in-the-meals folk object to this, saying that making people cook or shop (the heavier meal tasks) would drive them from participating in meals, that the meals are a part of cohousing and therefore should be a required function like the regular maintenance tasks, and that most people are participating in the meals anyway.

My question is: what is your take on the Q and A above and its accompanying rationale? Do you follow that in your community, or do you in fact regard meals as a required function whose work is incumbent on everyone? You can respond to me privately or to the list, as you prefer.

        Thank you very much for your insights and experiences.

David Heimann
JP Cohousing

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