Stephen Jardine: Join neighbours for the Big Lunch

WHAT are you doing for lunch tomorrow? If you don’t know then I have the answer,l says

Street Party held in Govan as part of the The Big Lunch. Picture: Robert Perry
Street Party held in Govan as part of the The Big Lunch. Picture: Robert Perry

Launched five years ago by the Eden Project, the Big Lunch encourages people across Britain to share a meal with their neighbours on the first day of June.

It could take the form of a street party or it could be as simple inviting the person next door in for a bowl of soup.

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The campaign started from a sense that communities are becoming more fragmented and losing the ties that bind them together. Research shows social trust has halved in the UK and rates are now amongst the lowest in Europe.

The aim of the Big Lunch is very simple – to build a sense of community, friendship and fun using food as a catalyst.

In this busy world, it’s easy to lose sight of the social role eating plays in our lives. It’s a moment to catch up with friends and family made special and intimate by the experience of sharing food.

The main reason eating alone in a restaurant feels so awkward is the lack of social interaction. But for many elderly people, that is daily reality. If they live alone and find it hard to get out, loneliness becomes stark and apparent at mealtimes. That’s where the Big Lunch really works.

It might feel odd to knock on a neighbour’s door and start a conversation from nothing. But when it’s Big Lunch day, the smell of roast chicken is the only excuse you need.

The appetite for the initiative has been remarkable. Despite the rise of social media, the success of the Big Lunch shows that people still value real relationships in communities.

Last year nearly four million people took part in the Big Lunch, with events taking place from Ayrshire to Shetland.

In Edinburgh, Robert Scott helped organise a community lunch in Oxgangs and said it was worth all the effort. “We wanted to get involved as gathering the community together like this rarely happens in the modern world we live in, but it can provide so many benefits – from chatting to neighbours people have not met before, to helping people come out of their comfort zones and trying something new,” he said.

Introductions made during the Big Lunch have blossomed into year-round friendships or led to the start of neighbourhood groups or societies. And in our multicultural society, there is also the added benefit of being able to share and try foods from lots of different cultures and communities.

So if you have nothing planned for Sunday lunch tomorrow, why not organise a get together? Last year 86 per cent of people said taking part made them feel better about their community.

Tomorrow, that could be you.