New learning materials to help foster carers and residential workers support "looked after" children have been launched by the University of Stirling.
The materials focus on the "symbolic nature" of food, and follow on from research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Dr Ruth Emond from the University explained: "Food and the practices around food have enormous potential to help children be nurtured and recover from the absence of nurture; to help children feel as if they belong, feel connected and to make relationships.
"For instance, how meal times are structured, or the way food is served - can be of huge significance to 'looked after' children.
"To give one example, our research discovered that some young people felt it was really important to be allowed snacks in their room or to be able to eat away from other children, particularly if they were having a hard time. Staff, of course, might go against that - trying to encourage everyone in a care environment to eat together. Food can also provide a way for children to show care to staff and carers and other children. "
Researchers shared their findings and promoted new materials to professionals in the care sector at a one-day conference entitled "Food for Thought", held at the University this week.
Guest speakers included Brigid Daniel, Professor of Social Work at the University of Stirling, and Robbie Gilligan, Professor of Social Work at Trinity College Dublin.
Academics, foster carers, council staff, social work practitioners, policy makers and various individuals and organisations charged with caring for looked after children were invited to attend the event.