Beyond Pride Month: Elevating LGBTQ+ Voices in the Anti-Hunger Movement

Lisa O'Brien
July 2, 2024

Last month marked LGBTQ+ Pride Month which each year commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City — a moment that coalesced the gay liberation movement — and celebrates the LGBTQ+* community. At MAZON, we work all year to honor LGBTQ+ older adults who show tenacity and resilience in the face of great challenges, and to ensure that federal nutrition safety net programs are more inclusive, equitable, and accessible to all those who need help regardless of their circumstances.

MAZON knows that LGBTQ+ older adults often face unique and persistent challenges that can contribute to their food insecurity — including a lifetime of discrimination, social isolation, family rejection, and fear of neglect and abuse because of their identities as they age. MAZON is committed to advancing policies to alleviate hunger among LGTBQ+ older adults, and the LGBTQ+ community more broadly. Here are just some of the ways we have advanced the issue:

(L to R) Lisa O’Brien, Fleurian Filkins, Will Thomas, and Houa Xiong speak on a panel at the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference

As a long standing ally member in the National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network, MAZON, along with other Network members, worked to advance data collection of sexual orientation, gender identity (SOGI) and gender expression (SOGIE) in federal surveys, winning a first-time inclusion of SOGI questions in the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey to capture the challenges the LGBTQ+ community faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, MAZON was honored to moderate a panel, “LGBTQIA2S+** Food Insecurity, Outreach, and Advocacy” at the Food Research & Action Center’s annual National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, DC.. The panelists, fellow members of the National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network, included Will Thomas (he/him), founder of the Patelana Group, Houa Xiong (he/him), SNAP Outreach Coordinator at Hunger Free Oklahoma, and Fleurian Filkins (they/them), Policy Specialist, Government Relations, at Feeding America. All spoke powerfully and persuasively about the higher prevalence of hunger among LGBTQ+ versus non-LGBTQ+ people, the importance of centering the voices of LGBTQ+ people with lived experience of hunger in policymaking, and the need for advocates to join the movement to create more inclusive, equitable, and accessible charitable food and federal nutrition programs to better serve LGBTQ+ communities with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Nevertheless, some recent statistics discussed during the panel reinforced the need for MAZON’s continued advocacy:

  • LGBT older adults age 50+ experienced higher rates of poverty and food insecurity than their straight/cisgender peers during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • LGBTQ people are twice as likely to participate in SNAP than their straight/cisgender peers; and
  • One in five LGBTQ high school students experienced food insecurity in a 3-month period in 2023.

Looking ahead, MAZON will continue to advance policies to ensure nutrition services are more inclusive of LGBTQ+ older adults in the next reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, protect and strengthen SNAP and other nutrition programs in the next Farm Bill, and collaborate with LGBTQ+ partners to respond to the nutrition needs of the LGBTQ+ community, especially among LGBTQ+ older adults. We have also begun to explore the unique and heartbreaking circumstances giving rise to food insecurity for transgender youth.


*The acronym LGBTQ+ may appear differently depending on sources that use varying acronyms, but all are meant to be inclusive of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Plus communities.

**The longer acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, Plus. The Plus is meant to be inclusive and respectful, leaving room for other gender identities and sexual orientations not included in the acronym.