26 Apr 2018 Guest blog: Recognising food as a safeguarding issue
Magdalena Przybylka, Registered Nutritionist and Food in Care Project Manager from Food Active discusses the importance of food being recognised as safeguarding issue in children’s care sector.
Food issues and fostering
Children in Care are among the most socially marginalised groups in England with much greater mental and physiological health needs. They often display abnormal food related behaviours and can come into care with a poor nutritional status. Children in Care can suffer with food anxieties caused by their adverse experiences (e.g. abuse and/or neglect) or may develop food issues during care placements due to the stress associated with an unknown environment where they might feel insecure and/or excluded (1). Carers also face many challenges and, as detailed in a recent report by The Fostering Network, many carers feel isolated and unsupported. They often face barriers such as lack of financial support and concerns about their own lifestyle and habits. Challenging child behaviours and lack of skills to deal with such behaviours by carers are the two most common reasons for placement breakdown, and result in 14% of foster carers leaving their roles (2).
Food in Care programme
Food in Care, led by Food Active, is an innovative and positively evaluated programme that can make a real difference to the children’s care sector, supporting carers to transform children’s lives.
Prioritising healthy eating and regular exercise, the programme delivers a number of interventions, including practical cooking sessions, bike rides, family events and other bespoke nutrition trainings, reaching more than 300 carers and young people to date. Through working very closely with foster carers and social workers, our work highlights a major skills gap and limited support for carers around nutrition and managing the complex eating behaviours of Children in Care.
The programme helps Children in Care to develop a healthy relationship with food by supporting carers on the subject of healthy nutrition, food preparation and cooking, and the role food plays in communication and building relationships. Food in Care training can be delivered as either train-the-trainer programme or as a direct, face to face training.
Upskilling foster carers around food and nutrition brings positive outcomes
Evaluation of Food in Care training has demonstrated that upskilling foster carers around nutrition and food behaviour brings positive outcomes, including improved eating habits, healthier lifestyles, increased awareness and understanding of the food behaviour issues and more confidence in dealing with those challenges. The importance of making this training a compulsory part of foster carer’s mandatory training was also repeatedly mentioned by number of carers (4).
Food in Care training has demonstrated that food and related practices such as shopping, cooking, and eating as a group has enormous potential to benefit the health and wellbeing of Children in Care and can be used as a bonding mechanism to build strong relationships and reduce breakdown of care placements.
We would be happy to hear from other organisations who share the same values and drive for the same positive change in the children’s care sector. We are also interested in working in partnership as we believe that by working together we can achieve more. If you would like to learn more about the Food in Care programme get in touch with us by contacting Magdalena Przybylka on 0151 237 2686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Warman A. (2016) Eating well and nurturing others: the role of food in good fostering practice, Adoption and Fostering, Sage journals, Vol 40, Issue 2.
- Cann R. and Lawson K. (2016) CUTS the view from foster carers the impact of austerity measures on fostered children and the families that care for them, The Fostering Network.
- Food in Care manual (2016) Care for Something to Eat? Food and health resource pack for carers of children and young people in care. Available online: foodincare.org.uk
- Food Active (2017), Evaluation Report, Food in Care Training. Available online: https://foodactive.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Food-in-Care-training-evaluation.-.pdf