Re: Exploring meal and common space scheduling options
From: Beverly Jones Redekop (
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2018 13:13:31 -0800 (PST)
Oops -- this is Groundswell Cohousing/Yarrow Ecovillage, an hour east of
Vancouver, BC, in the agricultural outskirts of Chilliwack.

33 homes/60ish adults/40ish kids!

On Tue, Jan 16, 2018, 11:39 AM Beverly Jones Redekop, <
beverly.jones.redekop [at]> wrote:

> 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] 
> wrote:
>> 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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