Common meals
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2008 09:21:22 -0700 (PDT)
There is an article on common meals in the current CohoUS newsletter on research done in 2000, The communities that were most satisfied with their community meals where those where;

        • Meals were regularly scheduled on the same nights each week.
        • A minimum of two (non-potluck) meals were enjoyed every week.
• Every adult residents participated in the preparation and cleanup of common meals on a rotating basis. • The same team that planned and prepared each meal was responsible for cleaning up after that meal.

They plan to do another survey asking the following questions;

• How are common meals managed financially?
• How do we deal with the common-meal needs and desires of children and their parents?
• How are special food needs handled?
• Is a common meal code of etiquette emerging from our collective experiences? • How do the physical characteristics of the dining rooms and kitchen contribute to or hinder successful common meals? • To what extent is a principle of fairness achieved by balancing the satisfaction and pleasure of eating common meals with the work required to prepare and serve them?

I think the questions are highly biased on favor of having community meals at all. Since some people feel that common meals define cohousing, I think it would be a good time to test this premise by asking questions like:

How many people are perfectly happy with few if any common meals?

A problem is how do get these people to respond to the survey if the survey is labelled something like, survey "Success in common meals." Perhaps questions like:

"What elements are essential to define cohousing?" Or,

"What makes your community different from other housing situations in which you have lived?"

Beginning with general questions like this might find that regular common meals are not so important, except to those to whom it is important. And would find out more about "cohousing today" rather than just what makes a good meal program, sort of killing several birds with one stone. The work to do a survey is worth surveying more things, without making it unwieldy.

Just a thought (or three),

Sharon Villines in Washington DC
Where all roads lead to Casablanca

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