One in five LGBT high school students experience hunger because of food insecurity

A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds 20% of LGBT high school students—an estimated 371,000 youth—experienced hunger last month because there was not enough food at home. Among older youth ages 18-24, 14%—an estimated 703,000 LGBT people—reported not having enough to eat in the past week.

Researchers analyzed data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey to examine experiences of food insecurity among LGBT and non-LGBT high school youth and older youth ages 18-24.

Results show that racial inequities in hunger due to food insecurity exist for both age groups. More youth of color experience hunger than their white, non-Hispanic peers. For instance, among LGBT high school students, Black (33%), Latino (24%), Asian (29%), and multiracial (21%) youth reported hunger at higher rates compared to white, non-Hispanic youth (14%). Among older youth, slightly more (15%) LGBT youth of color reported food insufficiency than white LGBT youth (13%).

Programs like the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can be reliable food sources for youth who don’t have enough to eat. But accessing those programs can be difficult for LGBT youth.

Nearly a third of LGBTQ+ youth (32%) who completed GLSEN’s 2021 National School Climate Survey missed a day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. More than one in five (22%) avoided lunchrooms and cafeterias because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

Among older youth, only 23% of income-eligible LGBT adult households are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“It is essential that the needs of LGBT youth are centered in conversations about food insecurity and interventions targeted to the community are developed,” said lead author Moriah L. Macklin, Research Data Analyst at the Williams Institute. “Policy interventions including ensuring all students have access to school lunch through the National School Lunch Program regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, providing Summer EBT, and making SNAP accessible for college students and other young adults are essential to addressing food insecurity among LGBT youth.”

Read the report

June 22, 2023

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