Hunger in the Hospital


Imagine your child gets critically sick or injured and must be admitted into the hospital. The hospital provides food for your child as part of their stay. But did you know that parents are not provided with a meal while staying with their child unless they purchase it?

Parents and caregivers have been overlooked in this all-too-common scenario, resulting in a gap of family care. Even though parents are also staying in the hospital, caring for their child, the parent is not the patient. There is no obligation on the hospital, or insurance company, to cover the cost of food for parents.

Food security is an important concern for parents while in the hospital with their child. When we talk about food insecurity in hospitals, we are highlighting the difference between access and affordability. Parents may have access to food but that does not mean it is affordable or convenient.

Food Security

There are two major concerns for caregivers when accessing food in the hospital.

Food Affordability

Whether the food is $10 a plate or $5 a plate, food costs can add up quickly, increasing the financial burden on families already in a tough situation. In addition to medical costs, parents may experience lost wages, increased transportation costs, and costs for childcare for other children.

Caregivers do not want to leave the bedside to obtain food
Parents are reluctant to leave their child’s bedside to obtain food elsewhere in the hospital. They often fear that they would miss a visit from the doctor or an emergency would happen while they were away. Caregivers also feel that being physically present with their child helps to support and ease any anxiety or stress the child may have about being in the hospital.

Feeding Families Foundation aims to address both these issues by covering the cost of caregiver meals and by having those meals delivered to the hospital room so parents don’t need to leave their child’s bedside or spend money on food.


What The Literature Says

Inpatient Food Insecurity in Caregivers of Hospitalized Pediatric Patients: A Mixed Methods Study

“Qualitative analysis identified barriers to food access, such as lack of affordable options, and found that caregivers made sacrifices for their hospitalized child, including skipping meals. Caregivers viewed their presence at their child’s bedside and personal nourishment as important factors affecting their child’s care.

Inpatient [food insecurity] may affect a significant proportion of hospitalized children’s caregivers. Pediatric hospitals should ensure that caregivers have access to food in order to fully engage in their child’s care.”

Rural and Urban Caregiver Experiences of Financial Strain and Food Insecurity During Pediatric Hospitalizations

“In addition to stress related to their child’s illness, caregivers experience stress related to financial strain and food insecurity during their child’s hospitalization.

Pediatric hospitalizations may lead to multifactorial financial burdens for families including lost wages, and increased food and transportation costs in addition to medical costs. We describe that in-hospital food insecurity and financial strain exists for caregivers, regardless of rurality. Financial strain and in-hospital food insecurity were also often primary stressors or factors exacerbating stress during their child’s hospitalization which may limit the ability for caregivers to participate in care delivery. Since they are a primary member of care teams, inhospital supports for caregivers aimed at reducing food insecurity and financial strain should be considered an essential component of pediatric hospital care.”

Oral Presentation by Rachel Granberg: Rural and Urban caregiver experiences of financial strain and food insecurity during pediatric hospitalizations.

Caregiver Experiences in Pediatric Hospitalizations: Challenges and Opportunities for Improvement

“Two major concerns regarding food access at the hospital emerged: food affordability and caregivers not wanting to leave the bedside to obtain food. The majority of caregivers commented on high food costs and cost accumulation over a hospitalization.

Caregivers cited frustration with navigating food access during their child’s admission. Caregivers of readmitted patients discovered available food options only after multiple visits. Multiple caregivers shared reluctance to leave the child’s bedside to obtain food elsewhere in the hospital, fearing they would miss a visit from the doctor.”

Feed First, Ask Questions Later: Alleviating and Understanding Caregiver Food Insecurity in an Urban Children’s Hospital

“Not having enough money to buy food at the hospital, lack of reliable transportation, and lack of knowledge of where to get food at the hospital were associated with hospital food insecurity.”


How To Get Your Hospital Meal

Feeding Families Foundation’s goal is to alleviate some of the financial strain placed on parents when their child is admitted. We work closely with children’s hospitals to identify rooms occupied by pediatric patients. When you call to order your child’s tray, you should be prompted to also order your free companion meal. Unlike other non-profits, we do not require forms to prove a financial need. We believe no matter your financial situation, you should be provided meals, delivered to the hospital room so you don’t have to leave your child’s bedside or spend money on food.

Want a Feeding Families Meal Program at your Hospital? Hungry to help end hospital caregiver food insecurity?

Together, we can make an impact in the lives of families caring for their child— one hospital at a time.