Hoarding Food

Top Reasons for Hoarding Food

Food and water are necessary for human survival, and those who feel that they may be deprived of these basic elements for life may end up hoarding food to protect themselves and their families.  There are a number of reasons that lead people to hoard, an action that affects both young and old.


Many families have stories of elderly aunts or grandmothers who, although living alone, not only stock their shelves full of an assortment of canned goods but actually overstock them.  It is likely that these individuals lived through the Great Depression; a worldwide economic upheaval that began in 1929.  Homes were lost, basic services discontinued, and jobs were almost impossible to find.  Fresh food became scarce, with the government supplying food rations to trade for dried beans, powdered milk, powdered eggs and potatoes.  These foods were not easy to obtain, though, entailing people to stand in long lines for hours at a time.  It was a hungry and desperate time, with most individuals getting enough to eat to stave off starvation, but never enough to feel full.  The Great Depression lasted only 4 years, with recovery taking several more.  The people who endured the hardships came out of the depression with some hard learned lessons; use cash instead of credit, save instead of spend money foolishly and make sure you have plenty of food on hand.

For some of these individuals, their determination to never again be without food went beyond reasonable actions as they stockpiled non-perishable food items.  Every cupboard contained stacks of canned goods and boxes of cereals; when this space was filled, boxes would be filled and stacked in spare rooms.  Rarely would the food be able to be eaten within the safe shelf life of the canned goods; this was often not a concern as the food was merely meant to serve as insurance against the hunger the individual had felt during this horrific time.  The majority of people who remember this time frame in the world’s history are elderly now, but the memory remains as fresh as though it were yesterday.


Though the Great Depression has never been repeated on a world wide scale, there are still many people who suffer from hunger.  In underdeveloped countries were food is extremely scarce, hoarding food isn’t an issue simply because it is not available to hoard.  More commonly it involves children of neglect; those who have been raised in an atmosphere where food was either denied or not available.  These children are often removed from the homes and parents that are unable to care for them and placed in adoptive or foster homes.  Though now their basic needs are met with no problem, the children have often lost the trust in those who care for them; remembering the days when their bellies hurt from hunger and determined not to relive them.  They will collect and hide food as a result of their insecurity and mistrust.  Therapy and counseling is often able to help these children deal with these issues successfully.

Hoarding as result of illness

In rare cases, hoarding food can be the result of a psychological condition called obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.  The primary symptom is the collection of a particular item, which can include food.  It is not clear as to why certain people develop this need, but it is thought to be associated with aberrant brain activity.  Treating the disorder is difficult, consisting of medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

It is believed that anyone will take the appropriate measures to ensure that their basic needs are met, and food hoarding is one example of how certain people guard against what they feel to be a real threat to their survival.