Study Shows Thousands of UC Administrative, Clerical, and Support Staff Go Hungry Due to Low Wages

At a press conference held in Oakland on Monday, October 17, UEPI researchers Peter Dreier and Megan Bomba along with collaborators Teamsters Local 2010 released findings about food insecurity among workers in the UC System.  Based on a survey of UC clerical, administrative and support staff employees the study found that over 70% are food insecure with 45% of workers going hungry from skipping meals and reduced food intake because of a lack of resources. The UC employees suffer from food insecurity at a rate five times the national average.

The study comes months after an earlier report showed that one in five students across the 10-campus UC system had gone hungry over the past year.

"I'm well aware that many Californians don't know where their next meal is coming from, but I was nevertheless surprised to find that  70% of the University of California's full-time administrative, clerical and support employees suffer from food insecurity.  As the state's fourth largest employer, UC should be an engine for good jobs and economic growth, not poverty-level wages. " said  Peter Dreier, professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College and one of the report's co-authors. "Unfortunately, our study discovered that the University of California has become a public sector version of Walmart. From both a moral and a common sense perspective, that is simply unacceptable." 

"While the results of this survey are staggering, ultimately they are not so surprising given the radically increasing cost of living in California, and the competing costs of rent, healthcare, and other basic needs. Food security, and a family's ability to meet its basic needs, is about so much more than just access to food or income. There are so many other financial burdens that families must bear, and the results of this survey show how often food is the area that families have to compromise on." said Megan Bomba, a Project Director at UEPI and co-author of the report. 

The study also showed that 80% of food insecure respondents had to make the difficult decision between buying food and paying for rent or utilities with one out of four having to make that decision every month. About 60% said they have had to choose between buying food and paying for medicine or medical care.

"This study presents a picture of food insecurity among UC employees much higher than anyone expected. In reviewing the final question "Is there any additional regarding cost of living, pay and food?"  the responses were heartbreaking.  Many shared stories of skipping meals so their children could eat well, or of making the hard choice between buying medication or groceries, and many shared that they reluctantly receive food assistance via Cal Fresh, food banks or relatives. It is simply unacceptable that full time workers at the University of California, many with degrees from the UC, are facing food insecurity and hunger at this level." Said Rosa Romero, a Project Director at UEPI at Occidental College and one of the report's co-authors.

The response rate for the survey was more than 21%, with 2,890 University of California administrative, clerical, and support staff participating. The Urban and Environmental Policy Institute of Occidental College authored the report with the cooperation of Teamsters Local 2010 who represents 14,000 critical support staff and skilled trades workers at University of California.  The study utilized the six-item food security questions developed by the US Department of Agriculture which were used in the University’s recent survey on student hunger. UEPI is an applied research institute at Occidental College that promotes programs and policies that’s advance equity and social and environmental justice.  This food security study is the most recent research, focused on how workers and communities experience food insecurity and organize for food justice.

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