Re: Common meals - mandatory participation?
From: Douglas G. Larson (ddhleearthlink.net)
Date: Sat, 2 Aug 2014 14:01:39 -0700 (PDT)
 

At Songaia Cohousing, membership in our food program is voluntary and always
has been for the 14 years we have been here. 

For the first 5 years everyone, i.e. all 36 of us participated. Since then
about 5 people have opted out but are still what we call pantry only
members. 

We have 5 meals per week, 4 weekday dinners and Saturday breakfast. Each
meal has 2 cooks and 2 cleanup people. The lead cook for each meal plans the
menu. We also have 4 buyers who do all the weekly shopping and 1 inventory
person who compiles the weekly shopping list for all the meals as well as
keeps track of what items are low or gone from the pantry. The buyers buy
from 2 wholesale places in our area but also get some items at local retail
outlets. One of the wholesale places delivers to us monthly. 


Occasionally, especially in the summer when many people are traveling, we
have to cancel a meal for lack of workers. But all in all meal cancellation
is rare. Also occasionally someone forgets about their job but this is even
more rare than cancellation. When it does happen someone goes to get them or
someone else pitches in to take their place. 

We just recently have shifted our business structure for the food program to
remove it from the Homeowner's association we had been operating under for
many years. We created a nonprofit organization, a 501c7, to handle the
money and business transactions of the meal program. A 501c7 is a brand of
non-profits that is what the IRS calls a Social Club. We did this because
Homeowner's Association (at least in the state of Washington) is really
about maintaining homeownership and a food program and its sundry
transactions isn't appropriate for an HOA. We researched the law and talked
with a CPA about it to reach this decision. 

Membership in the food program is paid monthly with adults paying $120 per
month and children paying $7.50 per month per year of age. That monthly fee
not only gives you the 20 meals each month but also grants permission to
take home items from the pantry. The pantry is like a mini store but only
contains the basics, i.e. grains, flours, oil, sugar, cereals, alternative
milks, and miscellaneous canned goods (canned tomato sauce, paste, tuna,
chicken, salsa, pineapple and a few others). As I stated earlier a few
members are pantry only and don't participate in the meals. They pay a
lesser fee. 

We have never had the program be mandatory but we also have always had a
large percentage of the community participate. I don't believe making it
mandatory would serve any purpose. 

As others have noted about their food program, our food program is a core
value and a vital part of our community. Without it we would be a very
different community. 


Douglas Larson,
Songaia Cohousing,
Bothell, Washington

 




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