Food insecurity and hoarding behavior are prevalent challenges faced by many children in foster care. Research indicates that foster children are at a higher risk of experiencing food scarcity due to the instability and disruptions in their living situations. In this blog post, we’ll explore the unique ways to address food hoarding, overeating, and undereating in foster children, drawing on statistics and research to inform effective solutions.

Image of children in foster care practicing mindful eating in a supportive environment.

Understanding the Issue of Food Insecurity

Studies have shown that children in foster care are disproportionately affected by food insecurity compared to their peers. According to research, up to 30% of children in foster care experience hunger or food scarcity at some point during their placement. This can be attributed to various factors, including limited access to nutritious food, disruptions in meal schedules, and past experiences of neglect or trauma.

Hoarding behavior, characterized by the accumulation of excessive amounts of food, is also typical among foster children who have experienced food insecurity. This behavior often stems from a fear of going hungry or lacking control over food access. On the other hand, some foster children may engage in overeating or undereating as coping mechanisms for emotional distress or as a way to assert control over their bodies in the face of uncertainty.

Innovative Solutions

Nutritional Education and Support

Educating foster children and their caregivers about nutrition and healthy eating habits can empower them to make informed food choices. This includes teaching children about portion sizes, balanced meals, and listening to their bodies hunger and fullness cues.

Individualized Meal Plans 

Working with nutritionists and healthcare professionals to develop individualized meal plans for foster children can help address their specific dietary needs and preferences. By tailoring meal plans to meet each child’s nutritional requirements, caregivers can ensure that the children receive adequate nourishment and support healthy growth and development.

Food Pantry Access

Collaborating with local food banks and community organizations to establish accessible food pantry programs can provide foster families with a reliable, nutritious food source. By reducing financial barriers to accessing food, these programs can help alleviate food insecurity and prevent hoarding behavior.

Mindful Eating Practices

Introducing children in foster care to mindfulness techniques, such as mindful eating exercises, can help them develop a healthier relationship with food. By encouraging them to pay attention to the sensory experience of eating and to tune into their body’s hunger and fullness signals, caregivers can promote mindful eating habits and prevent overeating or undereating.

Trauma-Informed Care 

Recognizing and addressing the underlying trauma that foster children may have experienced is essential for supporting their emotional well-being and reducing maladaptive behaviors, such as food hoarding. Trauma-informed care approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral and play therapy, can help foster children process their experiences and develop healthier coping strategies.


Addressing food insecurity and hoarding behavior in foster children requires a multifaceted approach that addresses their unique needs and experiences. By implementing innovative solutions informed by research and best practices, caregivers and support professionals can create a supportive environment where foster children feel empowered to make healthy food choices and develop positive eating habits. Together, we can work towards ensuring that every foster child has access to nutritious food and the support they need to thrive.


American Bar Association. (2011, October). Healthy nutrition for children in foster care. Child Law Practice, 30. Retrieved from