Re: how many people for common meal...just starting
From: R.P. Aditya (
Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2006 08:38:56 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Shelly,

On Thu, Aug 10, 2006 at 08:14:32AM -0400, Shelly wrote:
> Do you have any advice or anecdotes to share about what contributed to the
> success of your meals or otherwise?
> Getting this successfully up and running is a little daunting.

Absolutely! And getting it to run successfully means a lot to a community so
it is worth the effort :-)

We (Great Oak Cohousing in Ann Arbor, MI -- ) have
scheduled dinners 5 nights a week (Thursdays are shared with neighboring
Sunward cohousing and most other nights shared with our other neighbor
Touchstone cohousing who is just starting up) with an average 30 adult+teen
and 7 kid diners at meals. Almost every one of the 37 households at Great Oak
eat at some of those meals over the month.

> 2.  We are about to "sell" the concept of everybody is expected to
> cook/clean.  Unfortunately, this was not set up ahead of time but judging by

One of the driving factors in the success of our meal program is definitely
that the meal work is included in our community work program that all
community adults participate in (recently committee work has also been
included in that, so we too are experimenting with new ways of allocating
work). Meals work constitutes over half the hours in our work program so
almost everyone has some meal work (60 adults, approx. 7 hours per month work
per adult, and about 250 hours of meal work pre month).

> 1.  How many people are committed to either cooking and/or cleaning on any
> given meal night?  The head of our committee wants to schedule SIX people for

On a given night, there is a head cook (4 hours of work credit) with two
assistants (each get 2 hours of work credit) and 3 cleaners (each get 1.5
hours of work credit). We also typically order in food on the 2 Community
meeting nights per month (to allow for quick cleanup), and so only require one
cleaner and one person to order/coordinate the meal.

Although there are occasional complaints about the work load, I think the
positive effects of having 5 meals a week is recognized. Not to say we won't
consider reducing the number of meals in the future, but one of the fears is
that if you ever reduce, it would be very hard to increase it again, even if
the increase is incremental.

Some mechanics, in case you want the nitty-gritty:

We have a work survey (to see who wants to do what) every 4 to 6 months,
followed by a work allocation party (in fact this coming Saturday) where a
computer generated allocation based on survey results is manually tweaked and
then announced. Then the meal scheduler puts up calendars for 2 months, and
all meal workers signup for work slots that fit their schedules and any other

We track menus, assignments, meal signups, billing etc. all online (and have a
list of our five upcoming meals at ) and have 2 meals
billers who collect and deposit monthly checks, make reimbursements to cooks,
answer questions about bills and make changes and corrections (if you were
allowed to sign up late for a meal etc.). The billers get 2.5 hours of work
credit per month.

I suspect that we are on the larger end of communities, have more meals than
average, and have invested more setup and ongoing energy in automation and
organization than probably necessary, but on the whole I think it works well,
is sustainable and is recognized as valuable.

If you have more questions please don't hesitate to ask!

Great Oak Cohousing
Ann Arbor, MI

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