I had two young children in my home who had always hoarded food. They'd been in and out of foster care nearly half of their lives and I knew that their food hoarding issues had probably originated somewhere. If a child is starved, it's natural for them to have the INSTINCTUAL reaction to keep as much food as they can when food is available. For the first few months these particular kids were with me they over-ate at every meal. Stuffed themselves sickeningly full. They had stomach aches from over-eating all the time. I had an 'open snack drawer' that would miraculously become empty in the middle of the night. Eventually I had to start serving them multiple smaller meals throughout the day- always keeping them full, but not letting them eat themselves sick. I also had to restock the snack drawer less-frequently. I wanted my children to know that food was always available and they would never go hungry in my home- but their eating was causing them physical-discomfort and I had to make some small changes to accommodate.
One day one of my kids became very upset that, once again, the snack drawer had not been restocked. Both of the kids became furious and begged and begged for more food. I obliged, but knew I had to talk to them. For some reason, I'd put off the conversation. I always thought if I simply told them 'there will always be food here', they'd start to believe it. They'd calm down. But that wasn't working. And I needed to know the root of their problems. So I asked them if they'd been hungry before. And I asked them other questions like "How long did you ever go without food?" "Was there not usually food in your house?". As the story went on I learned more and more.
They spoke of how when they were very young their birth mother used to lock them out of the house when she had men over. They were never allowed back in until the man and their mom were finished 'kissing'. Sometimes they were locked outside for just an hour or two. Sometimes they were locked outside all night. But they never had food or water. They never had anything. They would steal food from the store- mostly candy, because it was small and they could fit it in their pocket. They'd ask their friend's parents for snacks. They'd visit their grandmother- who was aware of the starvation (but didn't ever speak up) and would she fill them full and send them back home. They did everything they could to survive- at merely 5 and 6 years of age.
I'm sharing this particular story, because my kids had an issue- obviously. And SO many foster parents get upset about food hoarding because they don't understand it. They have food available! They never starve their foster child! Why would the kid hoard food? It doesn't make sense. And it won't make sense until you take the time to learn their past- and then it will ALL make sense. NEVER judge your foster child's behavior and blame it on yourself or the child. If your child bullies another kid- they could have been subject to abuse at home and think that that's how you're supposed to act when you get mad. If your foster child cusses, chances are that the people around them cussed and they have no idea that it's bad (or don't understand why it's bad). So before you get upset, or mad, because you don't understand your foster child's behavior- take a deep breath and realize that their problem is rooted somewhere far deeper than you probably know. Over time, both of my kiddos realized that food was always available in my home. They eventually quit hoarding, and overtime learned they didn't have to overeat. Food quit being a focus for them, and they actually turned out to be pretty picky eaters; which made me pretty happy. When they went from eating EVERYTHING, to deciding they won't eat anything they don't like, it meant they were no longer worrying about starving. They were kids again. And they became those kids again, because I understood where they were coming from, and that understanding gave me the patience to help them overcome their food issues and turn eating into a positive experience for them.