England & Wales Communities and society

The Big Lunch: Feeding Community Spirit


Since 2009, LGiU has been analysing the social impact of The Big Lunch. We wanted to understand where Lunches took place, who participated and the difference that this made in communities. What we discovered was profound. Through the simple act of sharing lunch with neighbours, The Big Lunch strengthens communities and builds social capital.

The Big Lunch, founded by the Eden Project’s Sir Tim Smit and Paul Twivy, 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.

We found:

  • 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

As an organic, community-led initiative, The Big Lunch acts as an indirect policy intervention, which engages people outside the usual political channels to create a lasting sense of community and social capital. This is really important.

We know that high levels of social capital in communities 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 we also know that building and encouraging it is really difficult.

Our results show that Big Lunches works. Participants meet new people, feel closer to their neighbours and make lasting connections. What is more, it is also sustainable – the lunches bring together a diverse set of people from differing age groups. This can have a profound impact on communities, at a time when social capital is thought to be declining.

You can access the full report here: https://lgiu.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/The-Big-Lunch-feeding-community-spirit-web.pdf

To find out more about holding your own Big Lunch, visit their website: http://www.thebiglunch.com