Pride Highlights Work Left to Be Done For LGBT Food Access
By Will Thomas, Director of Research, Policy, and Advocacy
June is LGBT Pride Month. Hunger Free America is based in New York City, where the Stonewall Riots erupted and gave birth of the modern LGBT movement on June 28th, 1969, which is being commemorated across the country this month. The Stonewall Riots represented a marginalized community lashing out against the system that oppressed them, which eventually made possible a more equal country for all.
Despite marriage equality becoming the law of the land in 2015, LGBT Americans, especially those who are persons of color, are transgender, or live in rural areas, are still vulnerable. Americans in 30 states can be denied employment just for being transgender, and 28 states allow employers to deny employment to anyone for being lesbian, gay, or bisexual. In addition, LGBT people face adversity when accessing any number of services, including healthcare, housing (especially as they age), and many more.
Given this, it’s no real surprise that the LGBT community also faces hunger at rates higher than the population as a whole; as many as 27% may have trouble affording enough food, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA. Eighteen percent of LGB adults indicated in one survey that they or someone in their family had gone without food for an entire day in the past month.
Up to 2.2 million LGBT Americans may face food insecurity. LGBT African-Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to report being food insecure (42% vs. 21%, respectively), and 1 in 3 LGBT Hispanic Americans and American Indian/Alaska Natives report experiencing food insecurity.
It doesn’t take an economist to do the math; lack of access to employment and other social protections makes LGBT Americans hungrier than nearly any other demographic group. And the consequences are dire—food insecurity exacerbates many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, worsens depression, and even leads to poorer health outcomes for individuals with HIV.
Adding insult to injury, there are no explicit protections for LGBT Americans seeking food assistance, on top of the sad reality that the U.S. does not guarantee a right to food to anyone.
While many low-income LGBT Americans are able to access SNAP, those receiving assistance at food banks and pantries across the country can be denied service, even if the pantry receives federally-funded commodities through TEFAP. So called “religious freedom” laws that have been proposed at the federal and state levels could, if enacted into law and upheld by courts, encourage this denial of service even further, jeopardizing access to food for a population that is already extremely vulnerable.
HFA recently joined SAGE and MAZON in speaking out against the Trump Administration’s proposal to exclude LGBT Americans from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, making it harder to measure how effectively those programs, such as Meals on Wheels, were reaching LGBT older adults.
So this month, we hope you join us in celebrating hard-fought progress while getting ready for the fights to come.