The Greater Boston Food Bank’s shelf-stable items and nutritious produce travel from our Boston-based warehouse all across Eastern Massachusetts and into the hands (and bellies) of those who are hungry. With a reach extending from Gloucester to Provincetown, we support hundreds of agencies serving unique communities with different needs.
The AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod (ASGCC) is one of those agencies. In honor of Pride Month and recognizing agencies who go above and beyond for their clients, we got a chance to speak with ASGCC about the work they do.
“Of those clients accessing our Hyannis food pantry, approximately 60% identify as LGBTQIA+.” President and CEO Dan Gates shares. “GBFB is our primary resource for keeping our pantry stocked. Without the support of GBFB, ASGCC would not be able to serve as many clients from our Hyannis site as we do.”
Massachusetts has one of the largest LGBTQIA+ communities across the entire nation, and according to a study done by the Williams Institute a couple of years ago, LGBTQIA+ Americans are struggling with food insecurity more than nearly any other demographic – more than double the national food insecurity rate!
This makes the work of ASGCC that much more critical.
ASGCC provides on-site, emergency food pantry access to clients every week during traditional business hours. In addition, the Hyannis office delivers large boxes of food to around 50 clients a month. Pre-COVID, these boxes were packed and delivered by volunteers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, community shutdowns raised new challenges for ASGCC, but more importantly, for ASGCC clients living with HIV. Many of whom were afraid to leave their homes for risk of exposure. Serving clients with compromised immune systems, ASGCC made it a priority to continue monthly food box deliveries. Dedicated staff members dropped off boxes of fresh food and pantry items with care and precautions such as masks, gloves, plenty of hand sanitizer, and appropriate social distancing throughout the pandemic shutdown.
Dan tells us that meeting clients where they’re at with sensitivity and dignity is essential at meeting the need for LGBTQIA+ individuals. Americans in 30 states can be denied employment just for being transgender. Twenty-eight states allow employers to deny employment to anyone for being lesbian, gay, or bisexual. While Massachusetts is not one of them, many individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ still experience stigma and discrimination, even within the services they reach out to for support. This creates extreme difficulty for LGBQTIA+ individuals when accessing not only food resources, but healthcare support, housing services, and more.
“We create “stigma-free zones” at all of our sites and only partner with agencies who do so. It is imperative – especially for those disproportionately impacted by stigma and discrimination, as is the case for many who identify within the rainbow of LGBTQIA+ – that when they walk through our doors they experience an environment not only free of stigma and shame but one of acceptance and pride.” Dan states proudly.
At ASGCC, it goes beyond food access – they are constantly upholding and creating a network of stigma-free spaces and access to services for LGBTQIA+ individuals in need of support.
“It’s often through a variety of different lifesaving supports that we’re able to stay in better contact with our friends who identify as trans and are able to connect them to an array of axillary services, including proper nutrition.” Hyannis Site-Coordinator Amanda Messersmith explains, “Word-of-mouth plays a tremendous role in connecting folks to our services across Cape Cod, including Hyannis, Falmouth, Provincetown, and even Martha’s Vineyard.”
At GBFB, we are fortunate to have agencies across Eastern Massachusetts who are responding to the needs and circumstances of their communities. AGSCC shows that we can create environments free of stigma and discrimination, and offer hope using nutritious food as a gateway to wrap-around support. Thank you for all the work you do, ASGCC! We are proud to partner with you, for Pride Month and beyond.