A new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that 85% of LGBTQ+ youth programs surveyed said unstable housing was the main reason LGBTQ+ youth had inadequate access to food. The programs highlighted other common causes of food insecurity among LGBTQ+ youth, including a lack of access to jobs that pay a livable wage, family food insecurity, a lack of family support, and transportation barriers.
Using data gathered from 73 LGBTQ+ youth programs affiliated with the CenterLink network or identified through a targeted internet search, researchers examined the programs' experiences and perspectives on addressing food insecurity among LGBTQ+ youth.
Half of the LGBTQ+ youth programs surveyed reported that over 20% of the young people they serve often did not have enough food to eat in the past week. The most successful support strategies aligned with the multi-faceted needs of LGBTQ+ youth. These included providing meals or snacks directly, offering a food pantry, and giving gift cards to grocery stores or restaurants. However, strategies that required time and travel (such as referrals to off-site food pantries) or administrative hurdles (such as SNAP enrollment) were less successful.
"Community-based LGBTQ+ youth programs are feeding youth. With additional support, these organizations could grow their capacity and expand food access for LGBTQ+ youth." said lead author Kerith J. Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. "While initiatives like the National School Lunch and National School Breakfast Program are reliable sources of food for millions of U.S. students, LGBTQ+ youth may not have the same opportunities to participate in them due to stigma and harassment."
The most frequently cited sources of food for LGBTQ+ youth were food pantries or kitchens (92%), chosen family or friends (82%), and school meals (73%).
Only 60% of programs identified family of origin as a food source for the youth they serve, just slightly more than the percentage (56%) who identified obtaining food through street economies, such as sex work, the drug trade, and other nontraditional exchanges.
Among the programs that reported providing food directly to LGBTQ+ youth, less than half (42%) offered access to food daily, and over one-third offered food less than once a week or only on a case-by-case basis.
When LGBTQ+ youth programs were asked about broader changes for improving youth access to food, the majority prioritized access to transitional housing (77%), affordable housing (58%), and housing vouchers for youth ages 18 to 25 (55%).
Programs also recommended the following broader changes:
Increasing the minimum wage (51%)
Changing SNAP eligibility criteria (43%)
Free or discounted transit passes (41%)
Changing identity document laws (30%)
Read the report: https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/lgbtq-youth-orgs-hunger/
The Williams Institute, in partnership with the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ+ Youth("BAGLY" Inc.) and No Kid Hungry, held a convening in September 2023 of community-based organizations working at the intersections of food, employment, and LGBTQ youth to discuss effective strategies and common barriers to employment.
Read a summary report of the convening: williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/no-kid-hungry-convening/ .
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.