Tom, who is 27, lives with his mum and his grandparents in Blackwater, Cornwall. He has epilepsy, along with borderline dyslexia, and at times, he has struggled with reading and writing.
Tom has always been keen to learn new skills and take on a variety of challenges, but he hasn’t always found teachers, trainers or employees to be very supportive.
After a catalogue of bad experiences – from the employers who banned him from the kitchen because they thought his epilepsy was a risk, to the people who piled on pressure and expected him to work when he was ill – Tom’s confidence had plummeted and his anxiety had risen.
Although he wanted to find another job, he was wary of working somewhere where he wouldn’t get any training or support.
However, Food for Change has been able to help Tom rebuild his confidence and change his eating habits.
He started by working with Nicky, a Food for Change mentor, who helped Tom identify what goals he’d like to achieve, and how to reach them. With her support, he gained a qualification in Food Safety, learnt new cooking skills through our FoodWorks course and updated his CV.
By participating in a range of Food for Change activities, Tom has not only built up his confidence, but his trust in other people, which had been shaken by previous work experiences.
He said: “Since doing FoodWorks, my confidence has improved a lot. There are a group of us who attend regularly, and we get on really well. I’ve never met people who haven’t taken the mick before.
“I also enjoy coming to the weekly cook club. It’s really relaxed – people can talk to each other and socialise. Everyone is really supportive of each other.”
Food for Change has also helped Tom to make several changes to his diet. He’s sampled new flavours like jackfruit, tried out a vegan diet and even cut down drastically on fizzy drinks. Tom used to get through a staggering 48 cans of Diet Coke each week, but now he limits himself to the occasional sugarless Sprite.
Tom said: “Now, when I got to drink a Diet Coke, I don’t even like it. It just tastes like sugar. I am a lot more conscious about what I eat now. Food tastes better too.”