The Affirmations LGBTQ community center has teamed up with Gleaners Food Bank and Wayne State University to offer free food box pickup every Friday for any LGBTQ person in need. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., recipients can drive up to the back of the community center and volunteers will hand them a box of nonperishable food that should last two weeks. Each box also includes toiletries, like shampoo and conditioner. Condoms and lube are available upon request.
Affirmations Executive Director Dave Garcia explained, "Gleaners and Wayne State gather the supplies and put the boxes together, then send them to Affirmations Community Center so we can distribute them to the community."
The availability of the food boxes is on a first-come, first-served basis. Last Friday was the first time this service was available and over 20 boxes were handed out to the community, but Affirmations is expecting to give out more this week. Affirmations started this program to help out any members of the LGBTQ community who are suffering from the impacts of the new coronavirus. Whether they cannot afford groceries due to being laid off or have high-risk complications preventing them from shopping on their own, all are welcome to use the service.
"This is great because the more people who hear about it, as long as we have the funding and we have the partnership with Wayne State and Gleaners, we can continue to provide the service," Garcia said.
Garcia also mentioned Affirmations has another type of grocery service where it is delivering perishable groceries — like vegetables, fruits and meats — directly to LGBTQ individuals' front doors. To receive this service, anyone in the LGBTQ community can email Garcia with their grocery list and he will send an Instacart order to their homes.
"Because it is kind of a sensitive issue, getting food and being secure, we ask the community to keep their lists at around $75 each," Garcia stated.
Although it is primarily focused around the southeastern part of Michigan, any LGBTQ person from around the state can be helped by this service. Last week was the first run of this program and already 20 households were served.
"It actually started with delivering to our LGBT seniors, but became much bigger than that quickly. If I were to have a call from an LGBT person from the west side of the state, I could still have the grocery delivery service deliver to their front door," Garcia said.
As of now, there are no fundraisers to aid this service. The only money it has raised is with the grants given from the government. As long as the grants keep getting renewed, Affirmations plans to help as many LGBTQ people as possible.
Brianna Dee, a disabled transgender woman in Pontiac, is just one of the many people being helped by this service.
"Aff[irmations] delivered Instacart groceries for our household of three, including two other disabled transgender people, one poz, and one diabetic," she wrote in an email statement. "We also went to last Friday's pickup and got three boxes of nonperishables to stock the pantry."
She said that using the service was easy and that staff was supportive.
"Very easy. We sent a wish list of groceries and they were delivered in about a week," Dee said. "Dave was very helpful and we coordinated the delivery easily. The curbside food box pickup was done with social distance in the alley behind Aff[irmations]."
She added that because her household has several people in high-risk groups for contracting COVID-19 — two members are over 50 years old, one is HIV-positive and another is diabetic — the service has been a great way to lessen the risk of leaving home for necessary groceries.
"The future is uncertain. The Affirmations delivery service helps us have a better lockdown by decreasing trips to the store and reminding us that our community cares even if we can't be face-to-face right now," Dee said. "Any money we save on groceries can be used to pay other bills, including medical care. The doorside service also helps mitigate our chronic pain since even getting groceries is strenuous."
But beyond being physically nourished, Dee said that the service has provided a tangible positive impact on other aspects of her life.
"It's not just food. It's the feeling of community love and support that we cherish. This lockdown is very isolating. We can't access the family and support systems we built after being rejected when we came out. Affirmations is our community epicenter," Dee said. "Because of this program, we know with certainty that our meals are literally cooked with love from our friends and neighbors, whether we have met them yet or not. That nourishes our souls, not just our bodies."
To receive this service, email [email protected].