Tackling Loneliness with The Big Lunch

Colourful street bunting.

Sharing a meal can be a great way to bring people together. We asked Adele Hunt, who  many of you know supported the Hub on its early journey, to tell us about her experiences of making connections over a meal.

Making connections over a meal

I worked for four years with volunteer-led lunch clubs across Sheffield, in South Yorkshire. It was one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve been fortunate to have but there’s something about the term ‘lunch club’ which immediately turns people off. They’re seen as something for ‘other people’, ‘lonely people’, ‘older people’ but in fact, food and the social activity of dining together is for anyone and a great way to maintain connections and start new friendships. 

Just think of how you like to spend time with friends and family, memories from your childhood or even when we used to go to conferences in person. Sitting down and eating together is when we can talk and when we talk, we share things and ask questions and that’s how we get to know one another. 

The Big Lunch

Back in 2009 the Eden Project started their Big Lunch initiative and recognised it as an opportunity for people to come together in their local communities to share a meal, the aim being to encourage friendly, safer neighbourhoods. Now over 10 years on, the initiative has grown and developed with people adapting the idea to online spaces and different types of ‘community’. When I recently joined colleagues over zoom for a Big Lunch, the stories we shared about food, even just having some time together helped us learn a little more about what we have in common as well as the differences we can learn from each other.

But it’s not about the food is it? Tracey Robbins from Eden Project Communities describes  this in the recent Loneliness Explored podcast as ‘permission’. She explains how our strong culture celebrating independence means we often live and behave in ways which encourage us to be self sufficient. A shared meal, is a positive reason to bring people together, it’s enjoyable, can be accessible and isn’t transient. The pandemic has seen communities look out for one another more, but this is likely to pass and it’s important we keep taking positive action to connect with one another. 

The Big Lunch isn’t limited to one set date of the year, you can interpret it however you want.  It might be something you’d like to suggest to colleagues in our own workplace. Make the suggestion and I’m sure it will be appreciated, somebody else was probably just waiting for permission.

Adele has over 15 years’ experience facilitating peer support networks, designing and delivering grant funding programmes, and managing community engagement activity.  Most recently, Adele has worked in local government supporting the voluntary, community and faith sectors to increase their understanding of, and capacity to support, people in later life who are experiencing loneliness.

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  1. We thought this blog post  would be particular of interest to people running befriending programmes @Dianebefriending  @TTTB  @abigail  @bfriend  and employers looking at ways to encourage employees getting together and socially interacting @andyclarke  @Kerensa  @SteveDowling94  @Tracey1609  @LSnelders  

    Please do let us know if it resonates – and also would be great to hear about any work you’re doing to support connections through sharing meals! 

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