England & Wales Press Releases

A shared meal between neighbours can reconnect British communities, says new LGiU report

18th April 2013

A report published today by LGiU highlights how a simple shared meal between neighbours can provide a valuable and sustainable boost to Britain’s social capital at a time when communities are increasingly disconnected.

The LGiU has been analysing the social impact of The Big Lunch since its launch in 2009. Founded by the Eden Project’s Sir Tim Smit and Paul Twivy, The Big Lunch has a simple aim: to encourage people across the UK to have lunch with their neighbours, once a year, as a simple act of community, friendship and fun.

The first ever Big Lunch took place in July 2009, when almost 600,000 people sat down to eat with their neighbours. Since 2009, the Lottery-funded Big Lunch has grown significantly and in 2012 The Big Jubilee Lunch attracted 8.5 million people – a 350% increase on 2011.

Analysis by the LGiU demonstrates how these events have had a lasting and profound positive effect on British communities at a time when social capital in the country is declining [1].

LGiU research showed that:

  • 82 per cent of participants felt closer to their neighbours as a result of The Big Lunch
  • 88 per cent of people met new people at the event
  • 81 per cent thought the event had made a positive impact on their community (2009 – 11)
  • 74 per cent of people feel a stronger sense of community (2012)
  • 82 per cent of participants from 2009-2011 had actually kept intouch with people they had met at previous Lunches

High levels of social capital are known to have positive impacts on people’s health, educational performance, crime rates and socio-economic inequality in an area. Boosting social capital has been a major policy goal of successive British Governments, but effective encouragement has proved difficult.

The LGiU report highlights the importance of initiatives such as The Big Lunch in building bonds between neighbours and strengthening community cohesion. At a time of shrinking public resources, such community resilience will prove ever more important if we are to tackle the challenges of the future.

The report will be launched at the RSA this evening, Thursday 18th April.

Dr Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the LGiU, said:

“In an era of tight public finances, The Big Lunch provides an important, community led way of empowering local people and making them feel better about society. Our research confirms that The Big Lunch works – participants meet new people, feel closer to their neighbours and find out more about community issues.”

“Furthermore, The Big Lunch has an ongoing impact, with nearly nine in ten of those surveyed staying in touch with their neighbours. It is also sustainable – the lunches bring together a diverse set of people from differing age groups.

“To meet the challenges of our future effectively, we must build resilient and cohesive communities. The Big Lunch provides an opportunity to do just that and we should all hope for its continued success.”

Sir Tim Smit, Co-Founder of The Big Lunch, said:  “With 8.5 million people taking part in The Big Lunch last year, there is clearly an appetite for getting together and having fun. Taking place on 2nd June this year, the idea is simple; if people start talking to each other, we see stronger, friendlier communities emerging in which people start to share things, from conversation and ideas to skills and resources.

“Feedback from previous years has shown that almost everyone who takes part feels closer to their neighbours as a result. We’ve been through some difficult times recently and if we start those conversations now and build stronger communities, we will be better equipped to face the future together.”




Notes for Editors

For more information, including case studies, please contact Lizzie Greenhalgh on 07825 746 388 or by emailing her at [email protected]


The full report, The Big Lunch: Feeding Community Spirit, is available here: https://lgiu.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/The-Big-Lunch-feeding-community-spirit-web.pdf


LGiU will be launching the report at an evening debate at the RSA on Thursday 18th April. For more information, please go to the RSA website: http://www.thersa.org/events/our-events/where-does-the-responsibility-for-community-lie



[1] Economic and Social Research Council http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/facts/index54.aspx – 0


About LGiU

The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) is an award winning think tank and membership organisation. Our mission is to strengthen local democracy to put citizens in control of their own lives, communities and local services.

Our team of policy experts and other staff provides practical policy advice, learning and development programmes, events and conferences, consultancy and other resources to our members and other organisations.


About The Big Lunch

  • The Eden Project started The Big Lunch in 2009 in the belief that we’re better equipped to tackle the challenges we face when we face them together
  • The Big Lunch is led by the Eden Project, funded by The Big Lottery Fund and supported by MasterCard, Kingsmill and Asda
  • For further information or to request your free pack visit www.thebiglunch.com
  • The aim is simply to bring as many people as possible together for lunch with their neighbours once a year and encourage the sharing of conversation, ideas, skills and resources. 
  • The Big Lunch takes place annually on the first Sunday in June, but events can be held on another day if it works better for the community. 
  • On Sunday 3 June 2012, ‘The Big Jubilee Lunch’ formed part of the official programme announced by Buckingham Palace to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and was a huge success.
  • 8.5 million people took part in Big Lunch or Big Jubilee Lunch events in 2012, an increase on previous years – the best part of 1 million people in 2009 and 2010 and 2 million in 2011

The Big Lunch 2013 will take place on Sunday 2nd June.