Build Neighborhoods with Cafeterias

Do you know what's really inefficient? Every house/apartment having its own kitchen. It creates such duplicative effort, such overuse of energy (one big kitchen uses less energy than thirty small kitchens), and is such a missed opportunity for community building that it's positively bonkers.

Consider a world where new neighborhoods are built with communal cafeterias and new dwellings are built by default without kitchens. Neighborhood members would be offered membership plans (meal plans) in the communal cafeteria and would play a role in its management through a voting system. Private kitchens would not be illegal in these neighborhoods (people with special needs would still have them) they would just not be the norm.

The communal kitchens would help solve a lot of societal problems:
  • A sense of isolation that people feel with the rise of the Internet. Neighbors would actually see each other every day.
  • A lot of modern folks have terrible diets. A community could choose to only serve healthy food in its communal kitchen. It would make eating healthy "easy."
  • The exercise of walking to the communal kitchen/cafeteria would be beneficial to everyone involved.
  • Neighbors would be more likely to identify at risk youth/people who need help before a crisis occurs.
  • The lack of refrigerators in homes (by default) would certainly help with the obesity epidemic. So would the social pressure of neighbors seeing how each other eat. One would not want to be gluttonous in front of the Joneses.

Neighborhoods could also choose to use their communal kitchens for doing good - helping low income families put food on the table for example - or creative purposes like using the physical space for putting on local theatrical productions. How would the communal cafeteria be funded? Neighborhood residents could pay for a meal plan, or volunteers could cook each day, or tax dollars could be used to fund them. They could also be a-la-carte (pay by the meal) like restaurants, just subsidized in some way with reduced rates for residents versus non-residents and non-profit. Really many models could work.

There are many reasons not to have neighborhood cafeterias/communal kitchens (easier spread of disease, lack of privacy, economic concerns) but it would certainly be an interesting experiment for all of the above reasons. How appealing they sound to you may depend on how you felt about your college's dining halls.

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I teach Computer Science to college students, develop software, podcast, and write books about programming including the Classic Computer Science Problems series. I'm the publisher of the hyper local newsletter BTV Daily.

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Based on tdSimple originally by Lasantha Bandara and released under the CC By 3.0.