The Big Social (Distance Edition) 2020: Share Food, Change Lives

The Big Social Community Food Centres Canada logoCraving connection and community these days? Missing the kind of social gatherings you used to host and attend from “before times”? I think many of us are.  And while we can’t quite get together like in pre-pandemic times, it IS possible to socialise still (though it might look different) and the good news is that there’s a way for you to use your gathering (whether it be in-person or virtual) to help those who are struggling to put good food on the table for their families. Once again, this fall, Community Food Centres Canada* is encouraging us all to enjoy a meal together – though that might look different this year – to help those in need in low-income communities. That’s right – The Big Social (Distance Edition) is back!

Last year was the inaugural year of this exciting event and over 400 hosts in 226 communities got involved.

 This year, at a time when food insecurity is rising, it’s even more important that we come together to help those in need.  From October 9th-25th 2020, share food with friends, raise funds and help others.

How can your money help?

$30 can give seniors a healthy cooking session
$50 can provide fresh fruit and vegetables for a family
$75 can bring food literacy education to kids
$100 can grow a garden in low-income communities
$175 can help to open a new Community Food Centre

Set a fundraising goal – big or small, every little bit helps!

The Big Social 2020 on eatlivetravelwrite.comOk, I hear you say, that’s all very well but HOW do I host an “event” during a pandemic? It definitely is not as easy as it used to be but there are ways to make it happen.

 The most important thing you need to do is decide who you’re going to host and where:

  1. Members of your social bubble (smaller event but can be held without distancing and/ or indoors) or
  2. A wider guest list.  This is obviously ideal as it will raise more awareness but in these pandemic times there are a restrictions to take into account. So you can either host this online or outdoors (distanced) and both of these provide unique challenges in terms of either logistics or making it feel like a proper “event”.

Personally, for our Big Social, we’re hosting a small outdoor event (maybe a couple depending on people’s availability or maybe a drop-in event – see below) over Thanksgiving weekend. We’ve been hosting small group gatherings in our backyard since we were allowed to on a regular basis and have worked our way through the new normal of distance and not sharing items and while it sometimes feels odd and it’s not quite the same as backyard gatherings of old, a small gathering is better than no gathering! So, onwards!

Stuck for ideas? I’ve got a few…

How to host a physically distanced event for The Big Social in 2020: in person (assuming guests are from outside your social bubble)

In-person events require a little extra thought but they are possible. And since all the fundraising is done online from your personal page, no need to worry about that aspect – guests can donate when they RSVP, not contact or touching money necessary!

  1. Make sure you have enough room to host everyone, according to your local Covid distancing guidelines. For example, here in Toronto, if people are not in the same social bubble, even at an outside gathering, they still need to maintain a 2m distance from others or wear a mask if this is not possible. So, don’t go overboard with inviting people unless you are sure you have the space. If you are hosting an “open house (garden)” perhaps think of inviting people in shifts so that you can invite everyone you want and still maintain distance. If you’re hosting only people from your social bubble, you have more freedom, as long as those people are only a member of your one bubble.
  2. Plan your menu so that you’re only serving food that can be portioned individually before guests arrive. You don’t want to prepare a buffet-type scenario so that people end up gathered around the food, not distanced. If you’re hosting a potluck, make sure others know to portion individual serves.
  3. Ask your guests to bring glasses of their own (maybe more than one, for water and other beverages) and designate yourselves (the hosts) as the only people pouring drinks. If you’re hosting a potluck, those who bring the beverages pour them for other guests. If you don’t want to ask guests to bring their own glasses, make labels with guests’ names on them and stick them on disposable cups.
  4. Make sure you have enough disposable plates, cutlery and napkins and have a garbage bin designated for this waste. Stock up on sanitizer if you don’t have anywhere outdoors for people to wash their hands. Most people will bring their own but it’s important to have this available.
  5. Prepare for an “all weather” event – make sure that you have enough space undercover in case it rains or shade if it gets hot. Remind guests to bring warm clothing in case it gets chilly. If you’re lucky enough to own one of those patio heaters (ahem…. that would be us, even pre-pandemic LOL – wine nights on the porch continue well into the chilly months!), that will definitely be helpful as the temperatures drop!

The Big Social 2020logo on eatlivetravelwrite.comOk, I hear you say, an in-person event sounds complicated (it is and the point of The Big Social is not an event that is stressful for hosts) and some people are not ready to take this type of event. The good news is that there are so many online event options you can host!

How to host an online event for The Big Social in 2020

There are SO MANY ways to get creative using platforms like Zoom and Google Meet and I’m sure many of us have experienced a wide variety of them over the past 7 months. Here are just a few ideas. For all of the event ideas that might normally happen at a bar or restaurant, ask guests to donate the cost of what they would have spent to your fundraising page!

  1. Cook a meal together. Choose a recipe/ menu and connect online as you cook! Stay online as you enjoy the fruits of your labour!
  2. Host a virtual wine tasting event – curate a list of wines that are easily available for your guests and taste them together!
  3. Choose a cookbook (or cookbook author) and come up with a menu entirely from that source. Cook the meal before you meet online and discuss over your video meeting (kind of like book club, only tastier!)
  4. Meet up for virtual happy hour! Each guest can bring their favourite beverage and tell people about it (either how to make it or a reason why it’s a fave)
  5. Offer to host a cooking class for your virtual guests! Then sit down to eat the meal together online!
  6. Host a trivia event and ask your guests to bring their best snacks to eat as they play!
  7. Host an afternoon tea event where people can “drop in” with a cup of tea (or coffee or whatever) and just chat. Maybe send along a few ideas for afternoon tea treats that guests can prepare in advance.

(these are just a few ideas – and ones I see working perfectly for this event, but please share if you have other ideas!)

How can I host a Big Social event?

  1. Go to to register to host a fundraiser between October 9th and 25th 2020.
  2. Set a fundraising goal.
  3. Stay safe and healthy by gathering with your family, your bubble, or online.
  4. Invite guests to make a donation to help low-income communities.
  5. Share food. Change lives. 

(see, it’s simple!)

Over to you – how will YOU gather this fall to help? Don’t forget to tag @aplaceforfood and use #BigSocial on Instagram/ Twitter so CFCC can see all the good you’re doing!

Big Social 2020 logo


* Working in 175 communities across the country and with more than 200 partners, Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) brings people together around good food — in kitchens, dining rooms, and gardens — while advocating for a more equitable Canada. 


Disclosure: I received an honorarium for helping CFCC promote The Big Social this year. I will be donating this fee back to the organisation by matching my guests’ donations because I very strongly believe in the work they do in low-income communities to promote community and connection around food.


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2 thoughts on “The Big Social (Distance Edition) 2020: Share Food, Change Lives”

  1. It certainly is a “weird” year, but in many respects, makes promoting the work CFCC does even MORE important. If you think you were stressed the past seven months…think about those for whom food security was already an issue.

    It may not be quite a “big social” in our usual sense, but am happy Mardi and I can do something to help the cause.


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