Re: Cohousing-L Digest, Vol 26, Issue 5
From: Melisa Schuster (
Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2006 04:44:37 -0800 (PST)
At Great Oak Cohousing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, our work and meal programs have been integrated from the beginning. Every adult member is required to participate in the work program. Jobs range from head cook, assistant cook, meal cleaners, facilitators, maintenance, snow shoveling, snow plowing, flower bed weeders, tree waterers, recycling diva, CH cleaners, etc...(everything we need to have done in the community). The average number of work hours required per month is 10. Every four months we do a online work survey where folks indicate which jobs they would prefer to do, and our marvelous work committee assigns the positions shooting for matching work with the people who want to do them (high happiness factor). So people who don't like to do kitchen work don't necessarily have to do it (although close to half of all work positions are in the meals program). My guess would be most folks do at least two meal shifts per month.

We have delicious, creative, nutritious, and mostly organic meals 5 nights per week. It's the most popular part of living here, and the backbone of our community. An average of 35 to 50 people eat there every night, and many nights we are at capacity (64+). Our census is 90 (60 adults, 30 kids). There is sometimes talk that there are too many work hours per month, but no one talks about reducing or eliminating the meal program to achieve a reduction in work hours. Hope this helps.
Melisa Schuster
Great Oak Cohousing
Ann Arbor, Michigan

cohousing-l-request [at] wrote:


Message: 1
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2006 18:02:19 -0500
From: David Heimann <heimann [at]>
Subject: [C-L]_ Are meals an optional or required work expectation in
        your    community?
To: cohousing-l [at]
Message-ID: <Pine.SGI.4.61.0603031757180.1993963 [at]>
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII; format=flowed

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


Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.