According to the Williams Institute LGBT people are disproportionately food insecure. Last surveyed 2.2 million or 25% of LGBT adults experienced a time in the past year where they did not have enough money to feed themselves or family. I am one of those people.
In fact the second half of virtually every month my family struggles just to eat. My husband and I live on minimal social security disability benefits but somehow make $50 too much to qualify for any food stamp assistance. We are not alone but it feels as though we are, shame and stigma surrounds the food insecure.
The affluent grapples with food insecurity also. Just on different levels. To explain away why some people go hungry, some conclude there must be a reason such as laziness or stupidity to justify it. But my husband isn’t lazy or stupid and neither am I. We are both educated but disabled queer folks struggling just to survive like so many others.
To survive and feed our family we are forced to food pantries with long lines every month. Sometimes the wait for a couple bags of non fresh groceries and canned goods is up to two and three hours. To qualify for the assistance there is always a degrading interview where you supply things like income verification, your lease and utility bills. With this process some, including the homeless are often left out of the loop. Often times I get a sense of judgment as the interviewer scans us and our documentation. Perhaps it is my imagination or perhaps the subject of hunger is so taboo and painful, people would rather place judgment to explain it. Never the less it’s judgment and long lines or go without, so we press on.
I chose to write about our wrenching food insecurity not to seek pity but to help expose a deeply relevant topic too many in the queer community face.
On July 18th 2016 the headlines in the New York Times read: A Hunger Crises In The LGBT Community. And is true that LGBTQ adults are 1.6 times more likely to report food shortages.
It’s mind-numbing to be so poor for there is never a break. No vacations, no entertainment, no movies, no dining out. There is no respite where one momentarily steps into wealth. You either have money or you don’t and right now many don’t.
Until the day comes when and if poverty is systematically removed from society by corporate powerbrokers there are a few things people can do to help relieve those in need.
1) Organize food drives specifically targeting the LGBTQ community. Canned foods are good but fresh food, especially proteins are even better.
2) Sponsor a LGBT family or seek out LGBT people in need. Call your local LGBT center or LGBT food panty and ask if you can sponsor a family at the holidays or different intervals throughout the year. You will literally make someone’s day and life much easier and better.
3) Remember poor people have pets. They provide us with love and warmth all year round. Don’t forget many food pantries take pet donations in the form of cat food, dog food and kitty litter.
4) Erase all pre conceived notions of what poverty looks like. Queer people are experts at hiding, this includes being able to mask poverty.
5) Don’t pass judgment. It will only impede your ability to be of service to mankind and it’s just not helpful.
6) Be creative. In tackling poverty the sky is the limit. If you have the will, resources and time, createyour own organization or 501c charity.
And finally, to be sure to reach your target audience including the homeless, if at all possible shed unreasonable documentation requirements. After all if you want to be able to help the most people possible this is only reasonable. It creates unnecessary barriers to receiving help and really is a huge waste of valuable time and resources. When being of service a” no questions asked” policy is the best way to approach and to help the maximum number of individuals. Good luck!