Cohousing Classifieds

2020 Cohousing Open 

Session Notes



Time Slot 1 (10:40PDT, 11:40MDT, 12:40CDT, 1:40EDT)

Title of session:  

Meals during COVID?


Elph (Great Oak Cohousing)

Who participated:  

Sylvia from Fair Oaks

Mary Kraus from Pioneer Valley Cohousing

Paula from Fair Oaks EcoHousing

Trudy Lynn

Sparr Risher (CoDwell, Loophole, Dispatch)

Robin Allison (Earthsong in NZ)

Raines Cohen (Berkeley Cohousing)


Jane Dugdale



Key Points & Actions:   


We all know about the social benefits of shared meals, and the economy of scale that comes from creating a common meal, and the joy of service that comes from preparing common meals. For many communities there has not been a meals program during COVID. What ways of having some of these benefits (safely) can we come up with. What are people doing now? What could we be doing?


Trudy Bisbee (AZ) says using recycle/reuse containers to distribute food for common meal, then sit outside or back home and join a Zoom call to share time with each other.


Mary: a group has recently convened to discuss how to get going again: having a cook team (own pod? Non pod folks with masks?), cooks clean because turning it over to a clean team would not be safe, serving on the CH porch. (Alternative: Separate clean-up team comes in the next day.) We had thought about lines with 6 ft spacing and plexiglass – but was not something that people felt safe enough. Everyone will bring their own plates. Once a week.

Trudy planning on sharing thanksgiving – very cautious group. Mostly single person households. Bringing a shared dish for everyone to take home and then Zoom time together. 


Sparr says let’s make sure to be clear on assumptions around every household being in separate pods and the availability of a shared common kitchen. (vs. cohousing standard of own kitchen plus supplemental shared kitchen)


Mary says they had one person try to do a common meal but ran into issues of folks coming in to the CH and freaking others out about safety. (note different and evolving standards for what is “safe enough” –Raines)


Robin says not only the receiving the meal but making sure the cooking is done with proper hygiene and sanitation, also talking about how some of our elder members would like more meals and looking at some way to do that in the ch at a smaller scale


Sparr says using an app like Micro COVID could help set parameters on how to have the meal logistics work


Trudy says having respect for others’ concerns is so important. (Raines: and showing it!)


Sparr notes time concerns: some things are COVID-safe after a certain period of time; overlap with food storage times and requirements for safe serving in terms of other bugs/bacteria. Paper plates safer than porcelain. Bamboo too. And having a single server vs all handling same serving utensils (Per Mary K)


Raines notes that for 26 years, 3 meals a week with “opt-out” (assume all are coming unless signed out) participation was our standard, suddenly halted in late March. Only ad-hoc BBQs have happened since then. How do we find a safe common level? People resist efforts at restoring anything. It doesn’t help that a few folks took over rooms in the CH as private “coworking” spaces to escape spouses and kids simultaneously zooming at home, and they are using the CH kitchen as their lunch commissary — and doing more there could be seen as interfering with their use, or creating additional risks of shared air.


In some towns Cohousing Common Houses (especially larger communities and smaller towns) have been regulated as commercial kitchens, and there may be mandates for “safe serving” training and practices.


Robin says The safety of delivering food is one thing but the social aspects are so important as well, and Zoom is so limited.


Phoenix Commons (senior cohousing in Oakland, CA) has been having single-household teams cooking meals then delivering them boxed to homes (sometimes to dine together by Zoom, like Robin says), or having people pick up meals then dine out on the dock/patio.


Robin – maybe set up random “date nights” with households you don’t normally interact with. A community schedule of 2 or 3 other households to eat outside at a distance with.