Re: Common meals- mandatory participation or voluntary?
From: Fred-List manager (
Date: Sat, 9 Aug 2014 05:43:08 -0700 (PDT)
R.N. Johnson <cohoranda [at]>
is the author of the message below.  It was posted by
Fred, the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
after deleting quoted digest and restorin subject.
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Re: Common meals- mandatory participation or voluntary?

I live in a community that has made participating in the meal rotation
mandatory, and that has worked well for us.  We made that decision
after looking at a Cohousing Association survey many years back that
showed that meals participation correlates very highly with
satisfaction with the community- Communities that mandated meals
participation had more satisfied residents, and communities that ate
together often had even more satisfied residents.

Those who were more experienced cooks were paired with those who were
hesitant due to lack of experience. You don't have to eat, but you
have to cook.  Cooks will set aside a plate if you can't make it on
time. Every one is part of a cooking team once a month, and we eat
together twice a week. Since everyone has to do it, several non-cooks
have become experienced chefs, and it is not only the most
enthusiastic or"best" cooks who participate.

7 years later, we still have 70-90 % attendance at Sunday meals and
50-90% at weeknight meals.  I have talked with many people from other
communities.  So far, when someone says they are having major trouble
with the meals program, it has always been a community with voluntary
participation.  I can see why voluntary participation sounds good,
but cooking and eating together is as if not more important to the
community as cleaning the bathrooms and repairing the sink.

I think the reason that meals are so important is that those who don't
come to meals miss out on shared tasks, regular social time with
neighbors, a lot of the informal discussions that form community
opinion and a lot of spur of the moment fun activities organized at
the meals.  It is easy to get further and further out of step if you
are not there.

Randa Johnson
New Brighton Cohousing
Aptos, CA

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