Question about "dining clubs"
From: Jennifer Taub (
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2013 14:33:46 -0700 (PDT)
In addition to our community meals program (small, but seems to be working
ok), we have two "dining clubs" that have formed. Each group is "closed" -
members started on their own and have never opened the group up to new
households. One of the groups started because we did not have a good
community meals program at the time, and they wanted to eat more meals
together. The other group formed much more recently, and is comprised
mostly of younger families who recently moved in close together (although
not exclusively). They follow this structure:

   - 4-5 households belong
   - Each household takes a turn cooking each week for the group
   - No money changes hands
   - Eating is in community spaces
   - One of the groups has publicly invited others to join in via bringing
   their own meals, the other group has not

As we work to pull together more full community meals, these arrangements
have three drawbacks:
1) Those who most enjoy cooking and eating together aren't available
2) The community's common space is in use (some of it)
3) Hurt feelings by those who are left out. Each group formed amongst
themselves - neither was done openly.

Our community is split on the issue. Those in the clubs, of course, love
them. They enjoy the intimacy of the smaller group, find cooking meals for
a more limited group far less intimidating, and some folks like that no
money changes hands. Those who have more means will buy pricier
ingredients, those with less means will cook more simply on their nights.

Some other cohousers really enjoy being able to dine together bringing
their own food (especially those with various dietary restrictions who
often find the community meals won't work for them anyway).

Those who were not asked to participate in the clubs and who find it
impractical to prepare their own meals in time to bring their own food feel
left out.

As someone who has been working on and off for eight years to pull together
community meals programs, I find these efforts really frustrating as I feel
they "siphon off" energy for the community wide program. But when I bring
it up I think folks think I just have "sour grapes" (that is true, too)
because I have never been able to participate (despite asking if I can
join). Our most recent retreat revealed that others also have hurt
feelings. So it is tough for me on both these levels.

My questions to this list are:
1) Does your community have anything like this? If so, how has it worked?
How have you dealt with the resulting challenges?
2) What are your thoughts and opinions about such groups within the
cohousing structure?
3) Are there any suggestions about how to divert that "meal energy" back
towards the greater community?

Thank you in advance, Jennifer Taub, Jamaica Plain Cohousing (Boston, MA)

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