Food In Foster Care

Tish GallegosFoster Care

Does the title of this article surprise you? After all, what could be so different about food in foster care? It’s not like it’s “food in an orphanage” or “food in a public school.” You’ll be providing it for your foster child, and you’ll be compensated monetarily for it. So what’s the deal with food in foster care, and why does it need an entire article devoted to it?

Well, food plays an important part in everyone’s life, and the kinds of food that people grow up with can affect them. So dealing with the “food situation” can be a difficult transition for a child who is entering foster care. We thought we’d give you a heads-up so that you’re not insulted when your foster child foregoes your chicken florentine and instead opts for dry cereal.

The fact is, the most common reason that kids are placed with a foster family is because of neglect, and that often means that the parent neglected to feed the child well (or at all). That’s going to change how a child reacts to food when they are suddenly surrounded by it. While this certainly doesn’t happen all the time, we think it’s important to address the issue.

They Might Not Know It

Many of the children in foster care have grown up with parents who simply didn’t know how to properly care for them, so children are often raised on the simplest foods possible. They’ll be familiar with the foods that are the most easy to make, such as cereal and canned foods. “Cooking” might be a very foreign concept to them. In fact, there are kids in foster care who might be coming from somewhere that didn’t have running water or electricity, meaning that cooking or refrigeration wasn’t even an option.

All kids will know the joys of a simple apple, even if fresh fruit was a rare treat. But don’t be surprised if they’re not familiar with jicama, kale, or even avocados.

They Might Not Like It

The more foods that a child is exposed to when they’re young, the more they’ll like. Thanks to the variety of restaurants and the growth of grocery stores, most children are eating more foods that ever before. Kids today tend to enjoy a greater variety of food than their parents, who had more variety than their parents, and so on.

So when a child doesn’t get a lot of exposure to a large variety of food when they’re young, they’re going to be less likely to enjoy as many foods when put into foster care. That’s when they might choose to stick with the cheese pizza instead of joining the family in a white sauce pizza with artichokes.

They Might Hoard It

Some kids will hoard food. At first you could think of this as stealing, but in fact they’re simply acting as they did when they were being neglected: when food is in good supply, you stock up so that you don’t starve when it’s not. If you find a jar of peanut butter missing from the pantry, please be understanding and know that they’re simply trying to prepare for a time when the food runs out. Of course, with loving foster parents like yourself, that won’t happen. Trying to convince them otherwise is still very difficult.

Without a doubt, there are always exceptions to what we’ve mentioned in this article today. Some children have been raised eating a wide variety of food, others will simply be happy with whatever you offer them. But if you do run into any of the situations above as you welcome a foster child into your home, we thought we’d bring them up so that you can be prepared.