Re: Exploring meal and common space scheduling options
From: Beverly Jones Redekop (
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2018 11:39:18 -0800 (PST)
We don't charge either: we just provide our meal and enjoy the meals other
people provide. Homegrown carrots are "free," flour for homemade bread is
cheap, and premade salad from a bag with take-out pizza  is "expensive," so
the price of ingredients doesn't correlate all that well to the value of
the meal.

Each meal in a cycle is provided (cooked/paid) by two adults.  In addition,
the group of parents prepares one or two gratitude meals in a cycle to
recognize that some smaller households have fed some larger households. We
used to have a complicated math formula to count children, but these fun
and fancy meals meet our need for fairness just as well.

On Tue, Jan 16, 2018, 5:10 AM Sheila Hoffman, <sheila [at]>

> Greetings all from Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing in Seattle.
> To be honest, I've been off this list a long time and one of our members
> asked me to tell about our meal program since I was part of that team that
> created it while we were still forming. I also have not gone back to read
> every single message posted. But for what it is worth, here's our little
> meal program story.
> I think there are many right answers and some will depend on the size of
> the
> community as well as the demographics. We are a 9 household community with
> 17 adults and 11 children. We have 2 vegans, about 5 vegetarians and the
> rest are omnivores with some strong preferences for meat too. We also have
> medical food  allergies to accommodate.
> Last summer a woman named Heidi from cohousing in Australia stayed in our
> guest room for a week and ate with us several times. She declared that our
> meal program is "BRILLIANT!".
> Why? How?
> We made an early decision while forming that the meal program would be our
> community "glue" or as our founder Grace Kim says in her TED Talk, our
> "secret sauce". We created an expectation during the recruitment period
> that
> everyone would participate in 3 meals a week. With the small size of our
> community this was critical or it wouldn't work. We designed our Common
> House to hold ALL our members with enough room for guests. Our kitchen has
> two ovens and two residential dishwashers. We often have guests. Our first
> Thanksgiving we accommodated about 40 folks at tables.
> Initially we created a small team who researched how our area cohousing
> groups did their meal programs. We took notes and talked at meetings a lot.
> Most communities do some variation on a theme that includes taking
> reservations, tallying, shopping, reconciling accounts and charging those
> who attended, etc. You know the drill.
> We decided we wanted something inclusive and not complicated. We set a
> mission of "nutritious and delicious meals for all" which means we
> accommodate all food needs as best we can.
> To make it inclusive our schedule alternates M-W-F one week and then
> Sun-Tu-Th the next. That means if I have a recurring event every Thursday I
> still attend 5 out of 6 meals in that two week period and request a
> late-plate for the sixth if desired.
> The lead cook sets the menu, posts on Facebook, shops and pays for the meal
> ingredients and does the preparation. The 2 assistants come an hour before
> dinner to help with chopping prep and room setup and then stay afterwards
> to
> do clean up. The lead doesn't usually do any clean up. Everyone loves this
> arrangement. If someone can't do their assigned time once or twice it's on
> them to locate a sub and trade.
> To simplify accounting we don't track money. Some meals are simple and
> inexpensive and some meals are more complex. It's purely up to the cook. It
> comes out of their pocket. We recognize not everyone has the same resources
> and that's OK. As long as everyone gets something nutritious and delicious,
> we're happy. The value is in being together at meals and not the cost of
> the
> food. We wanted everyone to feel they could bring a guest anytime so we
> always fix more than enough food. That way guests can attend because it's
> an
> extension of your home.
> We have a Facebook private Group which we use for a lot of our internal
> communication. It's free and nearly all were already there regularly. We
> use
> the FB group to announce every meal so people can RSVP. That way we know if
> people have to miss a meal or are bringing guests. These events are also
> added to our Google Calendar and when someone gets a sub that is noted on
> the calendar so we can always look there for accurate information.
> The Meal Team reconfigures the teams every 18 weeks so we get to work with
> a
> variety of community members over time, deepening our connections. In an 18
> week cycle I'll be lead cook 3 times and assisting 6 times. That means for
> the remaining 45 meals I can enjoy a worry-free meal then sit around and
> socialize as long as I want.
> Happy to answer questions.
> Hope this helps someone.
> Your mileage may vary!
> Sheila Hoffman
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