Re: Keeping Track of Common Meals
From: Berrins (
Date: Wed, 29 May 2002 14:37:46 -0600 (MDT)
In a message dated 5/27/02 1:22:29 PM, bschaller [at] writes:

<< My question is, How do other communities keep track of how often people eat
and work?  Is it the honor system or some other system?

Becky Schaller
Sonora Cohousing
Tucson, Arizona >>

At Pathways, getting people to sign up to cook or clean at meals has become 
an issue.  We do not keep track (several folks are very much against it) and 
depend on folks to sign up. Based on the number of people signing up to eat 
and our experience that 3 cooks and 3 cleaners are needed for each meal 
(except for smaller meals and potlucks), we are asking each adult to cook or 
clean once every 3 or 4 meals.  There are several problems with this process:
- Some folks do not get out of work early enough to sign up to cook during 
the week and basically are too tired to clean up afterwards;
- Some folks are intimidated by the trained cooks and high energy cleaners;
- Some folks feel they do enough work elsewhere for the community and don't 
feel obligated to sign up to cook or clean on a regular basis;
- Some folks are single parents and have difficulty getting the time away 
from their child;
- Some folks simply refuse to be "told" what to do.

There are a few other reasons/excuses I can't think of at this time.

We thought that the few folks who have physical problems would not sign up 
much, but that isn't usually the case.

The main problem is that we occasionally don't get enough cooks or cleaners 
and end up cancelling some meals.  We've gone down from 2 meals a week to 6 
per month because of this issue.  We also now have some potlucks and tried a 
take out dinner (which was relatively expensive).  We have been working on 
ways to deal with a few of these issues (e.g., making it easy to get someone 
to watch your kids) but it's still frustrating to see the meal sign-up sheets 
up for a few weeks, getting closer and closer to the meal date, without 
enough volunteers signing up and wondering whether or not the meal will 
actually happen.  Overall, it's a little better than it was a few months ago, 
but still far from perfect.

All folks ARE expected to sign up to clean the common house about once every 
3 months and this has not been as much as a problem.

Personally, because meals happen so frequently, I think meals should be 
separate from other community work issues and folks who eat should sign up to 
cook or clean.  After all, if you don't eat the community meal you'll have to 
both cook and clean at home.  Eating without working puts the burden on 
everyone else, meaning everyone else has to cook or clean more often. 

After some discussion lately, we have had to recognize that the amount of 
volunteer time people have in their lives may fluctuate, due to illness, or 
schedule, or family needs, or whatever.  We are ending up having to hope 
that, over time, things will balance out.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Roger Berman
Northampton, MA
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