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Do parents of a hospitalized child face food insecurity?

In addition to increased emotional distress, research also indicates that many caregivers struggle with food insecurity during their child's hospitalization, especially for low to middle income. Although food is available at hospitals, the main problems caregivers experience are being unable to leave a child's bedside to get food during meal times, inability to afford purchasing cafeteria food or meal deliveries, and lack of knowledge regarding where to to get food at the hospital. 

Good nutrition is important, not only for the ill child, but also for the parents/caregivers and family. A good diet not only provides the body with the nutrients necessary for better fighting illness but it also is key in promoting improved mental health. Studies have shown that people who eat nutritional diets have increased mental health and wellbeing, impacting sleep patterns, anxiety levels, depression, and more. "The food we eat affects how we feel in our bodies and minds."

This is evident, not only during hospitalizations, but also during the critical transitional periods between hospital and home. Children with cancer and other chronic or life-long medical conditions spend a lot of time back and forth between the hospital and home. With each hospital visit, comes a very stressful transitional period for the first few days or weeks of being back home. During this period, parents need to transition back into being the sole caregiver, without the support of 24 hr medical care. Caregivers typically need to adjust to new medications and/or equipment schedules, be present for siblings who many times have higher emotional needs during this time, as well as adjusting to maintaining daily household chores such as cleaning, catching up with laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking. According to Ronan et. al., parents report being exhausted and stressed during this difficult and emotional transitional period. "There is a clear lack of support available for parents both from hospital and community service." (Ronan Parents' experiences of transition from hospital to home of a child with complex health needs: A systematic literature review, 2020)

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