In a broad sense, food hoarding can be defined as any behavior where a person seeks to gather quantities of food and store it for use at a later time. More specifically, when people refer to food hoarding, they are generally talking about a common behavior issue with children from a background of neglect. These children will often hide food in different areas around a house, including inside closets or under beds. This is generally considered a natural reaction to certain situations a child may experience if he or she grows up in an environment of extreme poverty or parental irresponsibility. Food hoarding is often a long-term effect of a psychiatric condition called reactive attachment disorder that initially affects toddlers.
In many cases, food hoarding behavior may be noticed for the first time in children who move into foster homes after being taken away from their original parents. Most experts say that the behavior is a sign that the child doesn’t trust its new parents. Children from this background may fear the possibility of abandonment, or they may worry that their new guardians may suddenly decide that they aren’t important enough to deserve food. In many cases, children who exhibit food hoarding behavior may also overeat at meals for the same reasons.
Most experts recommend a very gradual treatment strategy for food hoarding. It is generally advised that the new parents avoid any temptation to try and block the child’s access to food. This could potentially reinforce the behavior by basically confirming the child’s suspicion and distrust. The general approach to treatment often involves making food even more accessible. For example, the parents may set up some kind of food repository in the child’s bedroom and help keep it stocked with foods. Most experts suggest being patient and showing a lot of sensitivity as a way of helping build the child’s trust in her new guardians.
Common backgrounds of children who show this disorder include those who have been homeless and those with drug-abusing parents. Some experts consider food hoarding to be a symptom of reactive attachment disorder in more mature children. There are several early symptoms that may show up before food hoarding develops, including a general detachment and a lack of certain social skills.