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The Big Lunch for housing associations

Here's how The Big Lunch can benefit your housing association and community.

The ambition behind The Big Lunch was to create a moment in the year that would eventually be owned by everyone – a sort of Thanksgiving Day for neighbours, because, behind the cupcakes and the bunting, is the potential to effect real change in our communities with a day that is building social capital on a mass scale.

Why support the Big Lunch?

We’ve got lots of reasons why housing associations should get involved with the Big Lunch.

  • The Big Lunch helps to connect communities, and connected communities are more resilient. They are better able to spring back when hard times hit, to protect and prepare themselves against global issues, and they are happier and healthier.
  • According to our research, neighbourliness also delivers substantial economic benefits to UK society, representing an annual saving to public services of £23.8 billion in total.
  • We’ve got similar ambitions. The Big Lunch engages existing communities and creates new opportunities for sustainable integration with the wider community. It provides a simple platform from which these things can grow, from informal friendships, fun and conversations on the day, to tackling broader societal issues that may affect a street or neighbourhood.
  • The statistics show that people who organise a Big Lunch report feeling more inspired (77%), able (82%) and confident (82%) about getting involved in community events. 65% go on to take part in other community activities with people they have met at The Big Lunch, and 74% of organisers feel an increased sense of community and 88% feel better about were they live.

How to support the Big Lunch

Housing associations across the UK can support and encourage communities to take part in The Big Lunch by providing staff time, micro grants and access to community spaces.


1) Spread the word

Ask your communications team to help spread the word to residents through the website, newsletters, publications, events and social media using #TheBigLunch. Contact your Tenant and Resident Associations and encourage them to request their Big Lunch packs, full of tips and resources to help with their planning.


2) Invite the wider community

Sharing a meal together is a great way to find connections between people who might not otherwise ever meet, despite living in the same area. The Big Lunch provides a fantastic opportunity to create, strengthen or maintain links with local residents, groups or institutions outside of your Housing Association.

  • Map your local community – take the opportunity to discover which groups and institutions are nearby. Ask your residents, you may be surprised to find out what’s on your doorstep!
  • Targeted invitations – engaging community groups, schools or other organisations is often easier and more effective than an open invitation for local individuals.  It also allows you to personalise your invitation to a specific group of people, and start a conversation which could lead to a long and positive relationship
  • Breaking down walls – simply sharing some time together can enable conversations and connections between people who might not think they have anything in common.  Whether the perceived divisions are through age, culture, ethnicity or anything else, food can bring us all together and celebrate what we have in common


3) Empower residents

Whether or not there is staff time available to help with organising Big Lunches, the best option for long-term change is to encourage The Big Lunch to be resident-led, with support from staff only where necessary. The beauty of The Big Lunch is in its simplicity, and it can be a real confidence boost for people who have little experience with community action.

  • Micro grants – money isn’t necessary, but small pots can sometimes make a big difference.  It doesn’t even have to be money – offering a venue, or help with decorations for example, can make organisers feel that they are not alone
  • Shared ownership – with food, everyone has a story and their own personal favourite things to eat. We might not be sharing dishes this year because of Coronavirus, but you can still invite everyone to bring their own lunch and you might find that this becomes a talking point! Different individuals or groups can also be given responsibility for specific tasks, such as outreach or decorations
  • Encourage new community leaders – taking part in The Big Lunch could be the start of something really special for your residents! Many people go on to do much more, and there is a huge amount of support out there for people who want to start their own project, whether it is a community garden, a befriending scheme, or a lantern parade.

See all Big Lunch resources