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    Community Spotlight: Tom, NDIS participant with Garden of Vegan

    February 15, 2023

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    “One of the biggest barriers … is a lack of understanding about how important healthy eating is for people with a disability - and how it can significantly improve someone’s quality of life.” (Jamil Tuazon, Senior dietician at Kinela)


    Accessibility is a core value to Garden of Vegan’s ethos. Healthy, wholesome food should be the standard rather than the exception when it comes to meal delivery. Garden of Vegan is a proud NDIS provider and we have the privilege of assisting hundreds of NDIS participants with delivery of prepared meals each week. We met with NDIS participant Tom, 58, to discuss his experience with Garden of Vegan.


    Our Customer Care team originally put Tom’s name forward to interview simply because we like him - he’s unendingly kind, thoughtful and of course, he has shared with us that our meals help him to navigate his disability. You can learn a lot in customer service. But in speaking with him in this interview, we learnt about how his life has changed since his diagnosis some ten years ago, and his incredible achievements prior to and since. Tom’s story is one of inspiration and resilience, and the Garden of Vegan team are so lucky to be able to play a small part in his journey.


    Tom’s diagnosis changed the course of his life


    In 2012, Tom was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS). Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory and neurodegenerative disease wherein the immune system attacks the central nervous system. It’s the most common acquired neurological disease affecting young Australians yet there is no scientific consensus on what causes it. PPMS is a rare type of MS, characterised by a progressively worsening condition rather than the more common relapsing-remitting form of MS. Tom’s diagnosis naturally changed the course of his life, having a resounding impact on his physical lifestyle. Tom describes his PPMS diagnosis as having had his life “turned upside down”, requiring him to shift his mindset as he learns to navigate different limitations to his previously very active life.


    Living with a disability can make it more challenging to access good nutrition, and for chronic health conditions like MS, diet plays an important role in management. There is no recognised ‘best’ diet for managing MS, but experts recommend following the Australian dietary guidelines, focusing on intake of colourful fruit and veg, whole grains instead of refined grains and avoiding processed foods and sugars. While large scale studies are still very much lacking, many small studies building on the work of Dr Roy Swank have found positive associations between low saturated fat plant-based diets and progression or frequency of MS attacks, as well as between a vegan diet and MS management. Tom started ordering through Garden of Vegan in October 2021 and has become a valued member of the GoV community over this time. He went organic, whole-foods plant-based with the hopes that a healthier diet might slow down the progression of his MS and maximise his potential while he continually adapts to the new challenges presented by his disability.


    And Tom really has maximised. For those navigating study alongside their disability, it can seem an impossible feat, but Tom’s faith propelled him. With glowing recommendations from his academic advisors and a scholarship from the ACU Centre for Liturgy to boot, Tom commenced his Master of Theological Studies (Liturgy) at the Australian Catholic University (ACU). He graduated as the third person in Australia to receive a Masters in his chosen field of study shortly before we interviewed him. After conducting Tom’s interview, Benny gushed to the team about Tom’s inspirational story, enthusiastic support of Garden of Vegan and positive outlook on life. It’s been incredible to hear his experiences and achievements, reminding Mel, Damien and Benny of why they founded Garden of Vegan and why our entire team is so committed to the work that we do.

    Accessing Garden of Vegan meals through your NDIS plan


    Healthy eating is important for everyone. However, for people with a disability, the importance of diet in improving quality of life is often overlooked. For Tom, being able to access nutritionally complete meals through Garden of Vegan and his NDIS plan has helped him to pursue successes along a new life path. For others living with and without a disability, Garden of Vegan meals provide increased motivation, energy levels, mobility and independence. Eating an organic, whole-foods plant-based diet is good for our health and good for the health of the planet: What could be better than that? 


    If you are on the NDIS and have difficulty preparing nutritionally balanced meals or developing and maintaining healthy eating habits, you may be eligible for support under the NDIS. Contact your support coordinator to confirm your eligibility and read more about Garden of Vegan as a non-registered NDIS provider.


    You can read more about Tom’s story and his academic achievements here:


    For resources on managing MS through diet see:



    Dean, Z., Penesova, A., Radikova, Z., Dean, Z., & Kollar, B. (2022). Pilot study of longterm low fat diet in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Neuro endocrinology letters, 43(3), 135–139. Advance online publication. <>

    Harirchian, M. H., Karimi, E., & Bitarafan, S. (2022). Diet and disease-related outcomes in multiple sclerosis: A systematic review of clinical trials. Current Journal of Neurology, 21(1), 52–63. <>

    McMillan, J. (2021, September 27) The impact of food groups on MS. MS Australia. <>

    Types of MS. (n.d) MS Australia. <>

    Yadav, V., Marracci, G., Kim, E., Spain, R., Cameron, M., Overs, S., Riddehough, A., Li, D. K., McDougall, J., Lovera, J., Murchison, C., & Bourdette, D. (2016). Low-fat, plant-based diet in multiple sclerosis: A randomized controlled trial. Multiple sclerosis and related disorders, 9, 80–90. <>