Grandfamilies or kinship families are families in which children reside with, and are being raised by, grandparents or other relatives. They take care of children whose parents cannot because of reasons such as disability, incarceration, substance abuse, military deployment, or death.

FAMILY RISK: It's incredible when someone puts another first. With grandfamilies, this is just the case, however, these adults are putting themselves and their newly expanded families at risk of food insecurity.

A unique group

Grandfamilies do a great service to our country, saving taxpayers $4 billion a year by keeping children out of the foster care system. They are also more likely to provide a stable, loving home for youth in their care. Compared to children in non-relative care, children being raised by relatives have more stability, are more likely to maintain connections with brothers and sisters, and preserve their cultural heritage and community bonds.

Yet they are also more at risk for hunger and may lack access to nutritional food. The National Federation to End Senior Hunger found the threat of food insecurity is more than twice as likely as among households with no grandchildren present. An additional 2012 survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Generations United found 1 in 10 adults went without a basic need (food, medicine, or health care) to provide food for another family member.

“...1 in 10 adults went without a basic need (food, medicine, or health care) to provide food for another family member.”

Reaching out

Some communities are developing solutions to reach these unique families. Their efforts, such as Feeducation in West Virginia, can be replicated in other communities. Feeducation was started in McDowell County, West Virginia, where 19.5 percent of the residents are food insecure, 38 percent of the citizens are elderly and/or disabled, and 59 percent of children live in a household with no biological parent present. This leaves many grandparents raising their grandchildren without adequate access to affordable, nutritious food. 

Feeducation is a grandparent-grandchild nutrition education food assistance and hunger relief program. It is designed to provide multigenerational families with nutritious food to address immediate needs while educating them about proper food choice, preparing nutritious meals and buying affordable, healthy food on a budget. 

This just one idea for ways to help make sure the grandfamilies of America get the support they deserve. Grandparent caregivers are resilient. They overcome many challenges. But access to food should not be one of them.