Having never considered writing a blog before, never mind running a food co-operative, I find myself at a keyboard contemplating the beginnings of both!!

Where to begin………

Where on earth did Sunshine Co-operative from? Geographically, pretty much from central Sunderland, but the idea itself was shaped by many conversations between myself and my husband Wojtek, who is also a founder and Co-director of the Co-operative and our friends and family.

Having lived abroad and in major cities, myself, Wojtek, our two boys found ourselves back in my hometown of Sunderland in 2010. A wonderful place to bring up our children, next to family, the sea and countless areas of greenery, but a place also equipped with a certain set of frustrations. So often, we have asked ourselves, why do so many good things either bypass Sunderland or not take root here? Books could be written on this subject and I’m sure there has been many a discussion over a pint in The Ivy House contemplating this very question. However, that is not the subject of this blog.

There is a point in most people’s lives, and for me it was my early/mid 30’s, where we question our work/life balance and the very nature of the work we do. I believe the essence of this comes down to satisfaction. Is the soul satisfied? Is a job merely a means to an end or should it encompass more? Well, we reckoned, it should encompass much more. When you’re passionate about something, it shouldn’t feel like hard work (well that’s the idea!) As lovers of food, in all its wonderful varieties, Wojtek and I decided to create a shop of sorts, celebrating our locality and the people who live in it. And no, neither of us had done this before, we just really appreciate good quality food and want it on hand, made or grown from the spirit of the North, without the proceeds zipping back down south on the A1, lining the pockets of major shareholders of those large food corporations of which I need not mention the names.

Sunshine Co-operative Community Interest Company (to give its full title) was born out of a desire to work towards something worthwhile and of use to its community. A shop can be just that – a shop. Sunshine Co-operative is so much more than a shop. Its bricks and mortar are built out of a stubborn desire to have something worthwhile at the very centre of Sunderland; taking into consideration the City’s benefits and flaws. As a City, Sunderland benefits from a core of resilient and creative types. As a shopping centre, Sunderland cannot boast to be the best in the area, although it appears to be slowly changing. Still, most “discerning” shoppers prefer the excitement of Newcastle, the charm and tranquillity of Durham or The Metro Centre, which gives variety but no soul.

Sunshine is both a virtual and an actual shop. All our culinary delights and more are available on our website and can be conveniently delivered to our customers doors on a weekly basis. We know you’re busy and some of you aren’t too keen on coming into Sunderland City Centre, but hopefully that will change. If you see us say hi, we’re friendly and if the traffic has been bad, we’d love to see a smiling face. Alternatively, our customers can pick up orders from The Eagle Building on High Street East, where we’re available for a chat and we’ll have some extra products on hand for you to try.

We try to keep our products as local as possible and as we progress on our journey, we will bring in more local producers and growers. In fact, give us a shout if you know someone making or growing something delicious! We also know that there are products that we can’t acquire locally, either because no one is doing it yet, our climate doesn’t agree with it or it’s out of season. Some fresh produce may come from abroad, through our suppliers. In the case of fruit and veg, this will always be organic to ensure you are receiving the best! How and ever, we are doing our bit for the environment by cutting down on food miles and supporting growers who believe in organic farming or those who don’t have an organic certificate but farm without chemical pesticides or fertilisers.

To emphasise our commitment to our community, I’d like to introduce Tracey West. With a huge heart, an encouraging spirit and an equally big desire to make things happen in our City, Tracey joined as our Health and Well-Being Co-director. As a Community Interest Company (CIC) it is our aim to create a stronger sense of health and wellbeing in our locality. Tracey is a highly experienced dance practitioner who works with children, the elderly and those with special needs. We will be developing community engagement programmes combining healthy eating, movement and the arts under her watchful eye. Watch this space!

By the way, my name’s Claire and I am proud and excited to be a founding member and Co-director of Sunshine Co-operative.