By Peter Lefort, co-founder of the CAG Project’s The Oxford Food Surplus Cafe, and Country Manager for Eden Project Communities.
One of the hardest things about local action on climate change, in my experience, is making a global issue relevant at a local level. It can feel distant, confusing and intimidating. There are so many pressures on people’s time, that putting energy into environmental concerns which don’t feel directly relevant is not an easy thing to do.
So how can local climate conscious groups engage more people locally? Once the already environmentally-aware residents are on board, it becomes a lot more difficult. There’s no silver bullet, but I’d like to mention The Big Lunch as one potential tactic.
Started in 2009 by the Eden Project as a way to encourage people across the UK to share food with their neighbours, The Big Lunch has grown from 700,000 taking part to 7.3 million last year, over 92,000 events. This year’s total looks set to be even bigger, with the recently announced collaboration with the Jo Cox Foundation around the Great Get-Together, a mass engagement event to celebrate the things which connect us, rather than the things which pull us apart.
According to a 2016 survey, only half of us know our neighbours’ names. It’s pretty scary to reach out for the first time, especially about an issue as thorny as climate change. But everyone eats. Food breaks down barriers, finds common ground, and gives us a platform to have the conversations which can really make a difference. Including conversations on climate change.
For many of the millions of people who have taken part over the last eight years, The Big Lunch has represented a safe and accessible first step into community action. It can connect neighbours, finding common ground which is so hard to reach any other way. It can be a great opportunity to meet your neighbour face to face, especially those who you might never otherwise come into contact with in your existing circles, and find out what is important to them.
If you’re interested in finding out how simple holding a Big Lunch can be, and how to get started, there’s loads of information on the website including a link to download or order a free starter pack.
Feel free to get in touch with me for more information or just to chat about how it might work. I did my first ever Big Lunch in October last year and my street hasn’t looked back!