Snacks are helping queer youth find acceptance & support

teens hanging out
Photo: Shutterstock

Support centers and drop-ins have been a standard for queer folks for years. Still, with all the recent attacks on queer youth by Republican politicians lately, a new service is becoming popular nationwide.

Snack closets.

Food has always brought people together. While the structure and types of food eaten have changed, the human need for companionship (and nutrition!) keeps us gathering together for community and support.

Not only are youth dealing with political pressure, many also face family issues, homelessness, and food insecurity. So what better way to reach queer youth and comfort them during a difficult time?

“Food brings everyone to the party!” Jodi Snyder, the program director for Uplift Outreach Center, told Eater. The Spartanburg, South Carolina center has a drop-in center where teens can grab crackers, cookies, and other snacks, as well as a full kitchen where they can bake, heat frozen dinners, or cook for themselves or each other.

While the teens are there, they also find programs like queer and trans-affirming therapy and sex education.

“We’re just here for kids, whatever they need,” she said.

“We want this to be a soft place to land,” Time Out Youth executive director Sarah Mikhail said. “We’re trying to create our own version of queer home, of queer family.”

Located in Charlotte, North Carolina, the center provides critical care to students who have been particularly traumatized. The state has some of the most draconian anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the nation.

“Time Out’s drop-in space might be the only place throughout their day where kids can come and feel supported,” she added.

“Kids can’t and shouldn’t be expected to function when they are hungry. Some of our young people are food insecure very often, and that makes it impossible to receive things like job training or mental health services.”

Other centers nationwide, like the Ali Forney Center in Harlem and Magic City Acceptance Center in Birmingham, Alabama have also started their versions of snack closets. And they all report that the spaces are being used nonstop.

After all, what do kids want more than acceptance and… snacks?

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