Re: how many people for common meal...
From: juniperjojo (
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2006 07:21:16 -0700 (PDT)
I know every community (just like every child) is different, and what works for 
one may not work for another.  But as a person who dearly loves my cohousing 
community (most of the time, anyway), but who for logistical reasons attends 
very few common meals, I would resent the hell out of having to pay a flat 
monthly fee for meals and would instead drop out, rather than pay what sounds 
to me like a lot of money for meals I would never eat.  And then my son and I 
would miss out on what is often a fun part of our day, 
I would advocate for, and far prefer, the pay-as-you-go sign-up system, unless 
everyone's circumstances are more or less the same.  But requiring that one pay 
a monthly flat fee, or not participate, seems kind of harsh.  (Can't afford to 
pay $98/month for two meals?  Too bad!  We don't want you in our meals program, 
The Songaia meals program sounds a lot like what we used to do in the ICC 
co-ops when I was in college (lo these many years ago).  I was a cook and a 
buyer for two years.  This system worked well (usually) because we planned 
meals a month in advance and the buyers ordered all of the food, and we not 
only had a large (industrial) refrigerator but we had access to local produce 
and other delivery services.  I can't imagine this working in our (Great Oak's) 
common house kitchen.  We opted -- at the architect's advice -- for a *very* 
small refrigerator, and we don't have a lot of dry food storage room, either.  
I suppose we could add daily food buyers to the work system, if we start having 
problems finding enough volunteers to be head cook/meal planner/buyer.
If you have a spacious, well-designed kitchen with room for a large 
refrigerator, though, this could be a great solution.  It certainly takes a lot 
of the pressure off of the head cooks, a position I have never asked to do 
chiefly because I don't want (and don't have time) to plan a menu, shop for the 
food, and cook for that many people.
Also, Rob mentioned liking that Sharingwood's work system is less structured, 
and honors what people like to do.  I would add that Great Oak has a very 
complicated, but apparently pretty effective, method of structuring work such 
that people's likes and dislikes are honored.  We fill out a work survey (to 
which Adi has already referred) before every work season that allows us to rank 
the desirability of every single job that is available on a scale of -2 to +2.  
If we really want to do something, we rank it a +2, and chances are we'll get 
to do that job.  If we really *don't* want to do something, we rank it a -2, 
and as far as I know no one has ever been asked to take on a job they ranked a 
The work seasons are divided by weather, essentially; we try to have a work 
session which comprehends the snow shoveling season in michigan, and two work 
sessions that comprehend the growing seasons.
We also definitely do *not* assign precisely 7.425 hours to every member.  We 
do recognize that some people, because of various circumstances (new parents, 
for example), can't work as many hours as others, and we accept and hope that 
it will all more or less work out in the end.  For the first two years, all 
committee work was uncounted, but this caused a lot of friction among a group 
of people who perceived that they were doing the lion's share of the committee 
work.  We are assigning 2 hours a month credit for committee work on a "try it 
and see how it goes" basis, so if it leads to even more feelings of unfairness, 
or does nothing to remedy others' perceptions of unfairness, we may well return 
to a purely volunteer-based committee system.
Great Oak Cohousing
Ann Arbor, Michigan
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