Report

Food Insufficiency Among LGBT Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 2022

Food insufficiency is defined as sometimes or often not having enough to eat in the last seven days. Using data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, this study examines experiences of food insufficiency among LGBT and non-LGBT adults during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlights
LGBT people of color were three times more likely than white non-LGBT adults to face food insufficiency during the pandemic.
Most LGBT and non-LGBT adults said that their inability to afford more food was the cause of their food insufficiency.
Food insufficiency was most common among transgender adults and cisgender bisexual women and men.
Data Points
22%
of LGBT adults were living below the federal poverty level during the pandemic
13%
of LGBT adults reported not having enough to eat during the pandemic
8%
of non-LGBT adults reported the same
17%
of LGBT people of color faced food insufficiency
6%
of non-LGBT White people experienced the same
20%
of transgender adults experienced food insufficiency
8%
of cisgender adults faced the same
37%
of income-eligible LGBT people were enrolled in SNAP in SNAP.
39%
of income-eligible non-LGBT people were enrolled in the program
Report

Overview

Previous research has found that more LGBT than non-LGBT people have experienced inadequate or uncertain access to food. This study provides information about current experiences of food insufficiency—defined as sometimes or often not having enough to eat in the last 7 days—in a nationally representative household sample of LGBT and non-LGBT people. Using data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau on the Household Pulse Survey, this study found that food insufficiency was more common among LGBT than non-LGBT people (12.7% vs. 7.8%) in the period between July 21 to October 11, 2021. 

Findings also indicate that food insufficiency was more common among some parts of the LGBT community. More LGBT people of color experienced food insufficiency at some point during the summer or early fall of 2021, compared to non-LGBT people of color and all White respondents, regardless of LGBT status. Food insufficiency was reported by three times as many LGBT people of color as non-LGBT White people (17.3% vs 5.6%). In general, people with no more than a high school degree were at greater risk of not having enough food to eat as compared to those with more education. However, nearly twice as many LGBT people with a high school degree or less experienced food insufficiency than non-LGBT people with the same level of education (22.6% vs 12.6%, respectively). Food insufficiency was more common among transgender adults (19.9%), cisgender bisexual women (12.7%) and men (14.2%), and cisgender lesbian women (12.4%) relative to cisgender straight women (8.1%) and men (7.5%). 

Household Pulse Survey data were further analyzed to provide information about current socioeconomic status, food resource utilization (e.g., SNAP, charitable food resources), and self-reported reasons for insufficient food among LGBT adults and their non-LGBT counterparts. More than one-fifth (21.7%) of LGBT adults reported an income below the federal poverty level. Over one-third (34.7%) of LGBT adults reported difficulty paying for household expenses, including but not limited to “food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses, student loans, and so on” in the last week. 

Only 37.0% of income-eligible LGBT people and 38.8% of non-LGBT people were enrolled in SNAP. More LGBT people reported other barriers to accessing food than did non-LGBT people, including not being able to get out to buy food (20.2% and 11.4%, respectively) and safety concerns (15.3% and 11.3%, respectively). Details about study methods, as well as tables, are included in the Appendix. 

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Food Insufficiency Among LGBT Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic