Work experience helps Fife College students with learning disabilities shine

28th June

Fife College students with learning disabilities are being taught how to cook through a community project that allows them to make and sell their own creations.

The Sunshine Kitchen based in Cupar offers young adults with a lifelong neurological condition a safe space to learn how to develop food products, before going on to sell them at a stall at the local farmers’ market.

With an emphasis on using local produce, the team of young people also provide catering services to local groups and supply a local café with regular deliveries of soup and bread.

The project helps provide a supported working environment for those with a range of conditions including autism, Down’s Syndrome, Smith Magenis Syndrome, Dyspraxia and more.

At present there are eleven young adults aged between 18 and 30 working at The Sunshine Kitchen, with the majority of the current team being former or current students of Supported Programmes at Fife College.

They are using the skills they have developed at the College in the work they undertake at The Sunshine Kitchen, with the hope that this will help them in their future careers.

Gayle Nelson, who founded the project and is a lecturer at Fife College said:

“We set up The Sunshine Kitchen as we wanted to give those with learning disabilities a sense of belonging and a sense of achievement in what they were doing.

“Since we set up just three years ago we’ve worked with many Fife College students and helped to give them invaluable work experience.

“Associated learning difficulties and other challenges mean that the young people we support are likely to always require support to access a working environment.

“That’s why we wanted to provide a safe workplace for them where they get to learn important skills in how to make and sell their own produce.

“All of the students are so keen to learn and to contribute and they gain an enormous sense of pride and self-worth in being part of this project. It just proves the importance of having the opportunity to work, and to show what they can achieve.

“The reaction from the local community has been fantastic, and we have regular customers to our market stall complimenting us on what the students are making, and encouraging us to keep going.”

Chloe Hutchison, a student at Fife College who has been working at The Sunshine Kitchen project for several months said:

“I first heard about the project when Gayle got in touch with my Grannie, as she thought I would enjoy getting involved.

“We bake quiches and cupcakes, and we do soups for the farmers’ market which I really enjoy – although baking brownies is my favourite as I get to eat the leftover chocolate!

“I’ve made loads of friends at The Sunshine Kitchen as well, and I could now see myself going on to work in something to do with food or catering.

“The Sunshine Kitchen has been absolutely amazing, and has given me the opportunity to go to the kitchen and cook.”

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