Re: Common meals - mandatory participation?
From: Kathy Tymoczko (
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2014 08:46:29 -0700 (PDT)
At Daybreak Cohousing in Portland, Oregon, our community meals are entirely
voluntary.  If someone wants to cook, they check the calendar, and if
nothing is scheduled in the Common House, they put a sign-up sheet with
date, time, menu, and cutoff date and time for sign-up in the "meal
notebook" in the Common House, and post the menu on the Google calendar.
People check the sheets and sign up if they wish.  The cook can take
people's food issues into account, if they wish, but they can really cook
whatever they feel inspired to cook.  The sign-up sheet has a place for the
cook to indicate if the meal is omnivore, vegetarian, vegetarian-friendly
(meat separate), vegan, and whether it contains meat, fish, shellfish,
dairy, or wheat.  People who want to come to dinner to be social but can't
eat the food can always come and bring their own food.

Meals cost $5 per person (we keep accounts so people can prepay for a chunk
of meals), $2.50 for 6-12 year olds, and free for 5 and under.  The cook
has up to $4.50 to shop (plus using whatever is in the (generally
well-stocked) Common House fridge and pantry, and the rest goes in the Meal
Program account to keep the pantry stocked.  Meals occasionally go a bit
over budget (we still reimburse the cook) and lots of meals come in under
budget.  The reimbursement to the cook can be a check from the Meal Program
checking account, or it can be credited to the cook's meal account.
Everybody who eats is expected to help clean up.

We typically have potlucks two Sundays a month (in conjunction with our
plenary (community) meetings, and currently six to eight other meals a
month, plus other potluck (Memorial Day barbecue, Cinco de Mayo happy hour,
Chinese New Year, etc.) events.  From January through July this year, that
worked out to 42 meals cooked with 622 "people" attending, plus an
additional 20 potluck events.  That's an average of about 15 "people" per
cooked meal.  "People" is not an exact count of actual attendees, because
6-12 year olds count as "half a person", and under 5's aren't included in
the accounting at all.  So the actual number of real persons at the typical
dinner is probably closer to 15-18.

We have 30 households, with currently 14 kids and 39 adults.  Of those, we
have one person who cooks two Sundays a month, a couple who cooks two
Thursdays a month, a friend who doesn't live at Daybreak but who cooks two
Tuesdays a month, and a couple of others who cook one day a month pretty
regularly, and occasional other less frequent cooks.  Some people come to
almost every meal, some come pretty often, but almost everybody comes to
several a year.  Some one on the Food Team does the "accounting" once a
month or so, updating households' meal sheets with payments, meals eaten,
and reimbursements, and taking deposits to the bank.  The Food Team is also
responsible for keeping the pantry and other kitchen supplies stocked,
keeping the "leftover" fridge cleaned up, and maintaining the Common House
kitchen appliances (2 fridges, 1 freezer, stove, and dish sanitizer).

We think it works pretty well this way, and cooks get lots of positive
feedback.  Community meals are one of my favorite things about living in

Kathy Tymoczko
Daybreak Cohousing <>
Portland, Oregon

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