Primarily, food is fuel. A necessary and inescapable component of life, food is also a commodity that we are unable to live without as our bodies simply would not have sustenance to survive. However, food can offer so much more beyond being an essential requirement for life. Food is subjective in that we all hold different attitudes towards it based on our own cultures and personal experiences. For most, it is the sustenance of family bonding and building relationships.
Meals can be planned to include the adventure of new recipes as well as the serving of comforting family favourites, so that ultimately the food provided may enhance experiences and create new memories.
Many children and young people come into care with a poor nutritional status. They often have food anxieties (such as overeating or hoarding food) which can be linked to early experiences of either abuse or neglect. Studies have shown the importance of eating together as a family. Children who eat regularly as part of a family group (including foster families) are at a lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems or substance addictions.
Eating together also gives foster families a chance to reflect on their days together and forges stronger bonds between foster carers and the children they care for. Positive relationships can be built over the kitchen table and as a result, many adults still view the kitchen as the heart of the home.
Cooking and eating together also reaps the benefit of helping children and young people develop good, healthy eating habits for the long-term. Having a healthy balanced diet can help with energy levels, better sleep patterns and ability to concentrate on tasks. The Eatwell Guide (see reference below) provides lots of helpful information on achieving a healthy, balanced diet.
For some children, their relationship with food or mealtimes is a difficult one, so the creating of a positive environment for them to improve these experiences is essential. This can be an issue for children who have experienced abuse and neglect. Food in Care have a helpful ‘Encouraging to Eat Well – Top 10 Tips’ guide (see reference below) as well as some ideas to support young people who have food aversions, fussy eating issues, hoarding behaviours, eating disorders, and those who have difficulty eating due to poorly developed oral-motor skills from early neglect experiences.
At the time of writing, we are heading into the Christmas period, where food plays a big part in the festivities. This time of the year is a great opportunity whereby foster careers can create positive memories for looked-after children as we all come together and celebrate with family and friends. Interested in more information? We have a link below for some Festive Tips for Foster Carers.
The Eatwell Guide https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/
The Caroline Walker Trust – Eating Well for Looked After Children & Young People https://cwt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/EatingWellChildren2001.pdf
Festive Tips for Foster Carers https://ukfostering.org.uk/festive-tips-foster-carers-covid-edition/
by Lynsey Dobbs – Senior Recruitment Officer, UK Fostering