Food Insecurity, SNAP Participation Higher in LGBT Community

A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that people who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) experience more food insecurity and participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at higher rates than non-LGBT adults. This is consistent with data that show LGBT individuals are more likely to be poor and face higher rates of poverty than heterosexuals.

According to the study, more than 1 in 4 LGBT adults (approximately 2.2 million people) could not afford to buy food for themselves or their families at some point in the past year, compared to 17 percent of non-LGBT adults. Further, more than 1 in 4 LGB adults aged 18 to 44 receives food assistance under SNAP, compared to 20 percent of non-LGB adults. The study did not track SNAP participation among transgender people. Finally, adults in same-sex couples are 1.58 times more likely to have participated in SNAP in the past year compared to different-sex couples.
Among all SNAP recipients, there are major gender, racial, and other disparities. These disparities are even starker within the LGBT community.  LGBT women, young people, legally single individuals, people with children in the household, racial and ethnic minorities, and people without college degrees are especially likely to experience food insecurity. Thirty-one percent of LGB women, compared to 22 percent of LGB men, report not having enough money for food in the past year. Additionally, 42 percent of African-Americans and 33 percent of Hispanics experience food insecurity, compared to just 21 percent of Whites. 
The lack of legal protections for the LGBT community is pushing more and more LGBT people into poverty. Policymakers must update laws to provide LGBT people comprehensive nondiscrimination protections in hiring, housing, credit, and other areas. They must also expand data collection to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to better evaluate pressing issues in the LGBT community and create more effective policies at all levels.