SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Many of the people work for the largest, most prestigious state-run university system in the nation are struggling to put food on the table. Some even go hungry.
A new Occidental College study on ‘food insecurity’ among University of California’s administrative employees, conducted with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 2010, paints a grim picture of what happens when they go home at night.
Of some 2,890 employees surveyed, 45% said they went hungry at times due to a lack of resources. Another 25% said they didn’t go hungry, but were forced to limit the quality and variety of food they eat. Overall, two-thirds of UC staff are grappling with some degree of food insecurity.
The participants in the survey comprise 21 percent of the nearly 14,000 employees in the University’s Clerical and Allied Services Unit and include administrative assistants, childcare and library assistants and emergency dispatchers. According to the study, they work “in virtually every department and facility” across the 10-campus UC system, providing essential services. The lowest starting salary is $15.39 an hour; the average full-time salary is $22.70 an hour.
Food insecurity is defined as “the lack of access to sufficient safe, and nutritious food necessary to lead a healthy life.” The study says the prevalence of food insecurity among employees of the UC system is five times greater than that of U.S. households.
Lead researcher Peter Dreier says part of the problem is the high cost of housing in California.
“Food insecure UC employees often had to make difficult decisions with regard to paying for medicine or medical care, paying rent, paying bills and providing food for their household,” Dreier wrote in a press release.
Joseph Meyer, a 31-year-old UC Berkeley administrative assistant who earns $20 an hour agrees. He told the Los Angeles Times he sometimes skips breakfast and other meals in order to pay for his asthma medication. His $1,150 rent is more than half of his monthly take home pay.
The study offers no easy panaceas, and says it is up to UC and California taxpayers to find a solution.
“The people of California, the Board of Regents, and administrators of the University of California, need to decide whether this situation is acceptable. If it is not acceptable, then they need to decide what actions to take to address the problem.”
UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein told the Times she could not comment on the study because she had not yet seen it and could not assess its methodology. Klein also noted UC is in contract talks with the Teamsters and told the Times “issues such as higher wages should be negotiated at the bargaining table.”