LGBTQ Adults Are Facing Disproportionate Levels of Hunger

June 23, 2022

It’s Pride Month—a time to celebrate the diversity in Denver and the richness it brings to our community! But, while we celebrate, it is also important to reflect on the inequities in the present that we can work to solve. Though LGBTQ Americans have seen rapid advancements in both societal acceptance and civil rights protections in recent years, food insecurity continues to affect the community at higher rates than the general population.

In 2021, (for the first time ever!) the U.S. Census Bureau asked about sexual orientation and gender identity in the Household Pulse Survey. This survey was sent to measure different social and economic experiences of U.S. households throughout the pandemic, and as a result, can compare the experiences of LGBTQ adults with other groups. 

Of the more than 64,000 people who responded to the bureau’s latest Household Pulse Survey, over 13% of LGBTQ adults reported living in a household that experienced food insecurity in the past seven days, compared to 7.2% of non-LGBTQ adults. If there was any uncertainty about a discrepancy in the demographics, there is none now. 

The survey also revealed the extent to which many LGBTQ Americans are struggling with economic insecurity. According to the results, 36.6% of LGBTQ adults reported living in a household that struggled to pay for expenses in the past seven days, with over 8% saying they were not confident they could afford to make their next housing payment on time. By comparison, just over one-quarter of adults who do not identify as LGBTQ reported experiencing economic insecurity.

A recent Gallup survey shows that 5.6% of the American population currently identifies as LGBTQ. The problem is not insignificant. 

Fortunately, there are lots of organizations in Denver working to support LGBTQ youth and adults. Some of the larger organizations like The Center on Colfax and One Colorado are working to support the community through a long list of programs and free resources from mental health to legal representation.

There are a few organizations We Don’t Waste works with directly that help fight food insecurity in the LGBT community as well. We provide food to the Colorado AIDS Project as a part of the Colorado Health Network, and The Delores Project, which provides shelter to women and transgender individuals experiencing homelessness. We Don’t Waste began working with the The Delores Project in 2011 and has been delivering food to support their food programs on-and-off since.

“What began as a winter-only shelter has now morphed into a robust 24/7 low-barrier, housing-focused 50-bed shelter with rehousing case management and wrap-around support. Our team embraces a housing-first model of care, working to get individuals out of the shelter system and into housing as quickly and safely as possible while providing the necessary support before, during, and after the transition into housing,” says Stephanie Miller, CEO of The Delores Project.

Being a 24/7 shelter means providing regular food to their program participants, and lots of it! The Delores Project serves three meals and two snacks a day to their residents alongside many other essential services. Food program costs can be a massive financial burden for nonprofit organizations, especially with rising grocery costs due to recent inflation rates. Fortunately for The Delores Project, they receive some help from the community. 

Volunteers serving tacos for dinner during a Taco Tuesday event.  

“About 52% of the meals served in our shelter is donated,” Stephanie says. A few thousand pounds of that each month comes as a recovered food from We Don’t Waste!

In addition to the meals, they offer a food pantry for their residents in shelter and those transitioning out of shelter and into permanent housing. It’s just one of the many ways they help create longterm solutions for the women, seniors, and transgender adults that seek support through their programs. Through free shelter, meals, mental-health education, and transitional housing programs, The Delores Project has created a system that allows for dozens of adults each year to transition from homelessness into stable and secure independence.

The shared dining hall for the residents of The Delores Project.

One of the ways We Don’t Waste is unique as an organization is our network of nonprofit partners, through which we are able to distribute millions of servings of food each month. Through our connection with The Delores Project, we are able to contribute to hundreds of free, nutritious meals each month for transgender and gender-expansive people in an environment where they can thrive in a community of specialized support.