Food Insecurity: Houston, We Have a Problem

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When Nana first came to us at two-years-old, we noticed some strange things about her eating behavior. One, she ate everything we put in front of her. I mean even the vegetables.

Gone.

I never even knew a two-year-old knew how to sop, but once I saw her using a piece of bread to scoop up the last remnants of her meal.

Really?

Everyone would comment, “Oh, she’s such a good eater.” I was just thankful that we didn’t have the same issues that other parents complained about where their kids only ate chicken nuggets and macaroni.

I first noticed her behavior was really different from other children at the first birthday party that we attended. She had already eaten a plate of food but we found her convincing another parent to give her another.

She can’t even fully talk. How did she manage that?

We also noticed that other kids would eat a little bit of their cake and run off to play, coming back to nosh and then running off again.

Not our child. She sat there and ate her whole piece of cake while all the children were running around. With special attention to make sure she got every piece of frosting off the plate.

Then she picked up someone else’s milk and started to drink even though she had just finished drinking her own.

One time at the park, I saw her stare at a man, a complete stranger, who was peeling an orange. She then started over towards him with determination like, “I’m about to get me a piece of that orange.” I had to stop and redirect her.

I mean, this is a problem, right?

We mentioned these issues every single time that our worker came to meet with us. They never gave us any actions to take to deal with the issue and I wish they had taken these issues a bit more seriously.

Over time, the food issues have just gotten worst. She maneuvers her way to anyone that has food and silently begs by kind of dancing/moving in front of them, asks for anything from anyone,even strangers, manipulates other children to take their food, manipulates people to have them ask us to give her food, watches people eat, even if she has eaten, has pulled food out of the trash can, asks for seconds even though we know she is full, eats too fast, sometimes stuffs food in her mouth. Her hearing is ridiculous. I swear she can hear a bag of chips opening through a closed door.

We’ve learned over time that children who have gone through the foster care system often have food insecurity issues. Before she came to us, she either was not fed reliably or not fed enough. And even though over the past two years, we have followed a fairly strict schedule on ensuring that she eats and has enough, she still doesn’t trust that she is going to have enough food.

According to the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC), “Food insecurity and unsupportive feeding deeply color the initial relationship a child has with food. It can take weeks, months, and even years of reliable feeding for that trust to build and for children to believe they will be fed.”

We are at two years and counting.

It’s frustrating. It’s hella annoying. It can be embarrassing. And since most parents have children that don’t eat, when a child asks for food, they are always willing to give it to them. So on top of everything, we look like mean and overstrict parents for not allowing her to eat (because she has already eaten).

These next few posts will deal with our journey through food insecurity. We are still in the midst of it, but sometimes I see a little light at the end of the tunnel.