Sunshine Day Nursery, Durham, served by FareShare North East

4 March 2021

“What we find is a lot of in work families are in poverty. Self-employed people are suffering; others are on furlough. Most don’t know where the next pound is coming from,” explains Kelly Walton of Sunshine Day Nursery in East Durham. The nursery has been receiving food from Newcastle-based FareShare North East for three years.

Sunshine Nursery provides children with a healthy morning snack and two-course meal. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this provision has now been adapted to non-contact delivery with Covid-secure access to a community pantry – instead giving the raw items to families to take home and cook themselves. The service has been a valuable resource for some families in the tight knit community, as Kelly states, “some children won’t get a big dinner at home, so we’re able to make sure they’re filled up with food all day”.

The nursery – which has been rated outstanding by OFSTED, in part due to its food provision – has a tight budget, which is eased by the affordability of the food FareShare provides. Kelly says, “It means that the tiny little bit of other money that we do have left goes towards other things like paint and glitter and crafts that kids use to play with.”

Before the pandemic, the nursery’s in-house cook, Jan, would cook meals for up to 30 children. Dishes included spaghetti Bolognese, mince and dumplings and firm favourite, sausages, mash and beans, which Kelly says FareShare always “keeps us well supplied with”. Nursery staff noticed the impact of a good meal on children’s development too: “I know I can’t think straight when I’m hungry. By us being able to give kids breakfast and a snack, they’re able to concentrate better,” Kelly explains.

Sunshine Day Nursery has adapted to the pandemic by creating recipe cards for the items given to families in food parcels. The nursery is mindful of guiding the families and children towards more healthy options by including detail on how to use lesser-known vegetables such as butternut squash and leeks.

During the festive period, Kelly and her team made special efforts to spread some Christmas cheer to families by creating and delivering activity booklets alongside the food parcels. As well as the booklets each parcel had all the raw ingredients to make fresh pizzas, pancakes, fruit kebabs and small cakes, encouraging the whole family to spend quality time together to make the dishes.

Kelly says that families really enjoyed the festival parcels, even sharing pictures of the activities and food they made with the nursery on their Facebook page. “The nursery inbox the week before Christmas was pinging everyday with photos and feedback from kids and families of what they were making. It really helped to bring a little festive cheer to the community,” Kelly says.