Pride: reasonable self-esteem; confidence and satisfaction in oneself; self-respect
Pride is an annual celebration of not just LGBTQ+ identities but diversity, resilience, and visibility. It’s often punctuated by a monthlong series of events in major cities, including parades, street fairs, and parties. But for the LGBTQ+ community, pride hasn’t always been an easy ask.
Behind all the colorful Pride celebrations is a cry for human rights, not just gay rights. And the freedom to be able to simply exist and meet basic human needs — food, water, air, and shelter — just like everyone else.
Here at Food Revolution Network, that first need is at the core of our mission: healthy, ethical, and sustainable food for all. By shining a spotlight on food disparity in the LGBTQ+ community, we hope to amplify the voices of people who have been marginalized and foster a more inclusive and equitable society for everyone.
In the US especially (although not exclusively), legislation targeting the LGBTQ+ community has recently accelerated, further threatening to halt progress and once again to criminalize many aspects of being an LGBTQ-identifying individual.
At a time when so many wish to question the very existence of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s more important than ever to remember our common struggles as human beings. We all want our basic human needs met. We all want to be treated with humanity, decency, and respect. And we all want the ability to have pride in ourselves and the communities we are a part of and represent.
In this article, we’ll take a look at disparities in food security within the LGBTQ+ community, what’s being done about it, and how you can help support greater food access during Pride Month and beyond.
The State of Food Insecurity Among the LGBTQ+ Community
Although hunger and poverty are not unique to the LGBTQ+ community, these experiences are often disproportionately found among LGBTQ-identifying individuals. Differences in income, employment, and other financial disparities may all contribute to increased occurrences of food insecurity — and so, too, may sexual orientation and gender identity.
But increasing disparities and inequality are also significantly higher in certain US states, and in countries around the world, where there is little to no legal acceptance of or antidiscrimination protections for, LGBTQ+ people. In fact, in some places, same-sex relations and non-binary gender expression are still criminalized.
Data analyzed by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law shows that LGBTQ+ adults consistently report not having enough money for food at much higher rates than non-LGBTQ+ adults. They also participate in the USDA’s SNAP program (formerly food stamps) at higher rates than non-LGBTQ+ adults. LGBTQ+ people of color, women, and adults with children are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and SNAP reliance.
Among those surveyed in a 2016 report, the percentage of LGBTQ+ people reporting food insecurity was 27% vs 17% for non-LGBTQ+ people. However, that number may be even higher since it doesn’t count individuals experiencing homelessness (which is significantly higher in non-binary and transgender youth and adults).
Really, we’re only just beginning to understand the extent of food insecurity among LGBTQ+ individuals — at least in the US. It wasn’t until 2021 that the US Census Bureau began including gender identity and sexuality as household demographic data points.
But in Canada, results from the 2015–2018 Canadian Community Health Survey also showed a large economic disparity between non-LGBTQ and LGBTQ+ folks. While household food insecurity was around 8.5% among heterosexual people, it was a little over 13% for gay and lesbian individuals. And nearly one-quarter of bisexual individuals were food insecure in the previous 12 months.
The Organizations and Farms Helping to Address LGBTQ+ Food Insecurity
Although many individuals experiencing poverty and food insecurity can and do use food banks, food pantries, and other charitable services, it’s often a different story for the LGBTQ+ community. A 2022 analysis of food pantries in 12 US states found that over 63% were run by faith-based organizations or churches. But many LGBTQ+ people feel uncomfortable in these spaces for fear of (or experience with) discrimination or harassment, and so have to look for alternatives — often prolonging their experience with hunger.
That’s not to say that just because a food pantry has a religious affiliation, they aren’t willing to serve LGBTQ+ people. On the contrary, there are many faith-based food pantries that are open to all. But because there is uncertainty there, some hunger relief resources are starting to note which food banks, pantries, or soup kitchens will serve the LGBTQ+ community. For example, the City of New York has a list of food pantries and soup kitchens that are friendly to the LGBTQ+ community — separated by borough — with many of them being churches and synagogues.
However, as a result of this hurdle to food access, there are a number of secular nonprofits, farms, and other organizations that have also become a lifeline in the struggle for LGBTQ+ food security. The following are a few select organizations actively working to provide access to healthy food no matter someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
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Rock Steady is a queer-run farming collective working for equitable food access and education. They train LGBTQ+ individuals in sustainable farming techniques to encourage food sovereignty. And they run a sliding-scale CSA program that provides fresh produce for people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and people living with serious illnesses like HIV/AIDS. “Solidarity Shares” in the CSA are provided at no cost to low-income individuals and families through community partnerships. And a farmers market along with prepared meals are available for the trans community in New York through Food Issues Group (FIG).
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Okra is an important vegetable in Black cooking traditions and the namesake of The Okra Project, a mutual aid collective that focuses on the Black trans community. The Okra Project supports food security, safe housing and transportation, and mental health services across the United States for Black trans folks. Their Rides and Meals Fund gives Uber credits to trans men and women for transportation use or meals through Uber Eats.
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With 20 chapters all around the US, Gay For Good allows LGBTQ+ individuals to come together on a local and national scale working on service projects that benefit their community and the community at large. Many of their chapters focus on food justice initiatives, including community garden creation, food delivery for those living with HIV/AIDS, local food drives, and volunteering in community kitchens and food banks to feed low-income individuals and families.
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What started as an Instagram page for college students looking to share recipes has expanded into a collective with 11 chapters across the country. Veggie Mijas is an exclusively plant-based organization for people with marginalized identities, including women of color, trans folks of color, and gender nonconforming individuals. The organization believes in the power and protection of plants and the decolonization of the food system. Chapters host potlucks, food gardening instruction, culinary classes, and sustainability workshops. And they work to support plant-based, LGBTQ+, and people of color-run businesses in their respective communities.
Centerlink is an international nonprofit and the parent organization for member-based LGBT centers across the US and Canada. These centers are a lifeline, with programs and services that seek to support youth and adults in the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to providing essential food assistance, LGBT centers may also help with issues around housing, health care, or job training — addressing some of the root causes of food insecurity.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of LGBT centers opened up “pride pantries” to address mounting food insecurity for their respective local communities. Some pantries partnered with local food banks (like the Coastal Bend PRIDE Center of Corpus Christi, TX) or hosted the pantries themselves (like The Center Orlando), making food available to anyone needing assistance.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center is one of the largest LGBT centers in the world and has a senior-specific pride pantry that provides both dry goods and fresh produce for seniors on a fixed or low income. They also offer a culinary arts training program for both youth and seniors that not only teaches job skills and provides job placement, but assists in the preparation of nutritious meals for center recipients.
To find an LGBT center near you, visit the LGBT Community Center Directory.
What You Can Do to Help Fight LGBTQ+ Food Insecurity
Because the LGBTQ+ population is so diverse, there are often multilayered challenges making it difficult for people to access the resources they need.
But, by supporting initiatives that aim to address food insecurity, we can work towards creating a society where every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender expression, or any other aspect of personal identity, has access to safe, nutritious food.
To help eradicate hunger in the LGBTQ+ community, consider some of these options:
1. Donate money
If you have the financial means to contribute money, consider donating to one of the organizations we’ve mentioned in this article, your local LGBT center, or another farm, faith-based organization, nonprofit, or mutual aid collective that is inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community.
2. Donate food and supplies
Check with your local food bank or LGBT center-hosted pride pantry to see if they accept food donations and other household supplies. If you own a restaurant, cafe, grocery store, or farm stand, some organizations may also rescue food that would have gone to waste and redistribute it instead. San Diego’s North County LGBTQ Resource Center’s Foodies & Goodies program is one such resource.
3. Volunteer your time
If you feel moved to help out but are unable to do so financially, volunteering is another great way to contribute. Check with an individual farm, organization, or center to find out their specific needs and policies around volunteering.
4. Share this SNAP resource
One in four LGBT individuals between the ages of 18 and 44 participate in SNAP. And in 2022, the USDA expanded SNAP program access to prevent discrimination not just based on sex, but sexual orientation and gender identity. If you or someone you care about uses SNAP benefits, make sure to read or share our article on how to use SNAP benefits to buy fruit and vegetable seeds and grow your own food.
5. Be an ally
Although it may not directly contribute to fighting food insecurity, one of the simplest ways you can show up for the LGBTQ+ community is by being an ally. Educate yourself on issues like this one, be supportive, and have positive discussions with friends and family members about LGBTQ+ people. You may also consider getting involved with LGBTQ+ groups or contacting your local elected officials about championing and protecting LGBTQ+ rights.
Take Pride in Supporting Food Access for All
This June marks 53 years of Pride celebrations in the United States. As some storefronts hang rainbow flags to show support and festive Pride celebrations are held, it is crucial to acknowledge the struggle for freedom and equality still faced by the LGBTQ+ population. Pride is and has always been more than a celebration; it is a collective call to action, an opportunity to confront the complex intersections of identity and inequality that persist in our society.
Disparities in food security persist within the LGBTQ+ community, often exacerbated by discrimination, violence, homelessness, and legal barriers to equality. But despite these challenges, there is hope in the struggle for freedom and equality. Many organizations, farms, and nonprofits are actively working to address LGBTQ+ food insecurity and create more equitable access to nutritious food.
By standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in the fight against food insecurity, we can help achieve healthy, ethical, and sustainable food for all, not just during Pride Month, but every month, and every day.
Tell us in the comments:
Were you aware of the food insecurity issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community?
What other organizations are working to address LGBTQ+ food access?
How else can you show up for marginalized communities?
Featured Image: iStock.com/Pacha M Vector and Olga Strelnikova (with modifications)