Dame Prue Leith lauds leftovers at the Big Lunch launch

Dame Prue Leith lauds leftovers at the Big Lunch launch
Prue Leith attending the launch event for this year’s The Big Lunch (Yui Mok/PA)
PA Wire/PA Images - Yui Mok

Dame Prue Leith hosted eco-minded community organisers at a picnic in London to launch the “greenest” Big Lunch campaign on Wednesday.

The Big Lunch has been held on the first weekend of June since 2009, encouraging neighbours to dine together to combat loneliness and foster community spirit.

The Eden Project, which runs the charity initiative, has chosen a message of sustainability for this year’s event on June 1-2.

The Big Lunch 2024Prue Leith hosted eco-minded community organisers to launch the Big Lunch event, which will take place on June 1-2 (Yui Mok/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Yui Mok

Ten community organisers dodged rain showers to lay out a spread of sustainable produce, set against the verdant backdrop of Phoenix Garden, a community green space in central London.

Dame Prue, 84, the renowned television presenter, restaurateur, cookery school founder, writer and novelist, attended as an ardent supporter of the Big Lunch and was thrilled by this year’s focus on sustainable eating.

“I actually prefer cooking with leftovers. I like looking in the fridge and thinking: ‘What can I make with those different things?’” Dame Prue said, adding: “My husband calls it ‘the clockwork plate’ because when the children were little, I used to put little blobs of different things in a circle, starting with the things they should eat first, eating their way around and then they would get the sweet thing, like chocolate.”

Speaking by a table of kale soda bread, cucumber sticks and falafel wraps, Dame Prue promoted the environmental benefit of cutting back on meat.

“If we could all eat 30% less meat we would then have the right amount of animals without overtaxing the land and treating them cruelly,” she said, adding: “The answer is beans. They are absolutely delicious and you can eat them out of the jar with a spoon.”

The Big Lunch 2024Dame Prue said she will be stepping away from Celebrity Bake Off to travel the Silk Route with her husband (Yui Mok/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Yui Mok

Last month, Dame Prue confirmed she would be stepping back from her role on Celebrity Bake Off, though she will continue to film The Great British Bake Off for which she has been a judge since taking the reins from Mary Berry in 2017.

“The reason I am not going to film Celebrity Bake Off this year is because I want a little bit more of the summer so that I can go to visit those countries on the Silk Route – Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and all these amazing places,” Dame Prue said of her plans to travel for a month with her husband, John Playfair.

On Tuesday, Dame Prue took to the runway at The Other House in South Kensington for her modelling debut, wearing a dress made out of Sandringham’s wood-chip willow bark.

“I was practically running to keep up with these long-legged models,” she said, adding: “There was a moment when I nearly fell over and there were a couple of moments when I went the wrong way, but it was tremendous fun and all for a good cause.”

Dame Prue, who has written eight novels, said of projects on the horizon: “If I have got one remaining desire, I would love to have one of my novels made into a film.

“It’s a miracle if anything ever gets made. I don’t suppose it ever will, but I would love that.”

The Big Lunch 2024The Big Lunch encourages community gatherings that raise money for good causes and gets people together (Yui Mok/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Yui Mok

Dr Emily Connally, 41, founded the not-for-profit Cherwell Collective to grow and distribute surplus food around Oxfordshire, as well as teach people to extend food life through pickling, fermenting and dehydrating.

She also runs the Climatarian Kitchen, a cafe that decides prices on the product’s carbon footprint and organises Big Lunches throughout the year for 150 to 600 “socially, financially or medically disadvantaged” people.

“We try to have them around times when other people would be celebrating because that is a time where I think if you are isolated and lonely, you can be especially lonely”, she said at the Big Lunch launch, adding: “A lot of people who come into the Big Lunch because they care about the sustainability tend to be younger.

“People who come to the Big Lunch because they care about the community tend to be middle-aged families, and people who come to the Big Lunch because they care about isolation and loneliness tend to be older adults.”

The Big Lunch 2024Dame Prue with Lindsey Brummitt, who billed this year’s Big Lunch as the ‘greenest ever’ (Yui Mok/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Yui Mok

Lindsey Brummitt, 49, Eden Project’s programme director in Cornwall, billed the Big Lunch as the “greenest ever”.

She said: “People really care about climate change so the Big Lunch is a fantastic opportunity to bring people together to share your tips and ideas.”

Other guests at the lunch included Etheline Deer from Tamworth, who dressed the table with greenery from her community allotment, Nureen Glaves from Feed Me Good in Harlesden, Saira Begum from interfaith food bank PL84U in Leyton, and Malcolm Hazleton from a community garden in Medway.

Also in attendance were environmentally-minded 16-year-old Irys Chick; community garden organisers Tracy Bliss and Brian Hickey from Benfleet; and artist Gemma Lloyd from Tooting.

The Big Lunch is made possible by The National Lottery and is supported by Iceland and The Food Warehouse and Greene King.

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