Survey: 33% Of Workers Admit To Stealing Food From Coworkers

By Kathy Morris - Feb. 11, 2021

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Nothing can encapsulate the disappointment of opening the work fridge and finding an empty lunchbox.

Maybe it was just leftovers, or maybe it was something special you looked forward to all morning. Regardless, it was yours. Sometimes not even labeling your lunch can protect it from being pilfered.

What kind of sociopath would have the audacity to take a colleague’s lunch?

To get to the bottom of the sandwich swiping (and office food culture in general), we surveyed over 1,000 American workers. The results? Your seemingly normal coworker at the desk next to you might be perfectly comfortable taking a bite out of your lunch.

Key Findings

Other Findings

  • Drinks are a common culprit: With respondents citing missing sodas, special coffees, Red Bulls, juices and other drinks being nicked particularly often.
  • Alaska is the state with the most food theft in the workplace.
  • No one surveyed in 6 states (Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont) would admit to taking food from work.
  • Be careful where you put your food: Food on the counter and candy bowls are almost universally seen as up for grabs.
  • Guard your pizza: 16% of workers believe no permission is needed to take a pizza slice.
  • As astonishing 6% will take food right from a coworker’s lunch box.

Employer Provided Food, No Swiping Needed

Food in the workplace is becoming more common both as a perk and as part of employee engagement. Judging from the amount of workers willing to take food without permission, food is in hot demand.

Below you can see a breakdown on the amount (and regularity) of employer provided food in the workplace, as well as how employees feel about food as a perk.

44% of workplaces only provide food on special occasions, such as holiday parties. Another 17% never or “almost never” food.

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While the majority of workplaces are not providing food regularly, 39% provide a meaningful food contribution on a regularly basis- including snacks, drinks, and occasional meals.

Just under half of workers “love” employer provided food, to the extent it influences their job choices. Another 45% still enjoy food perks, while not being a deciding factor.

Only 7% say food isn’t a perk they want in the workplace.

Methodology, a career resource website, conducted a study of 1,322 American workers to better understand food theft in the workplace, as well as their current work benefits involving food. All workers were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Each worker was asked, in addition to demographic questions, the same series of related questions.


Depending on the size of your company, chances are a dirty rotten lunch thief lurks amongst your seemingly normal enough colleagues.

So write your name carefully on your lunch, it might deter a less bold swiper. If that doesn’t work, you can always try a passive aggressive post-it.

Of course, there’s a chance you yourself have tasted the forbidden G0-Gurt or Lean Cuisine of another. Be warned, even if not confronted, your coworkers might suspect (and resent) your nefarious behavior.

Not only could you find yourself the target of that justified hanger, you also risk of termination or official warnings that could jeopardize your career trajectory.

Percent Of Respondents Who Admitted To Taking Coworkers’ Food Without Permission, Each State

State % Of Food Swipers
Alabama 21.4%
Alaska 64.3%
Arizona 19.0%
Arkansas 53.8%
California 41.2%
Colorado 43.2%
Connecticut 31.8%
Delaware 50.0%
Florida 28.2%
Georgia 43.2%
Hawaii 28.6%
Idaho 50.0%
Illinois 25.0%
Indiana 60.0%
Iowa 25.0%
Kansas 55.6%
Kentucky 12.5%
Louisiana 60.0%
Maine 33.3%
Maryland 17.9%
Massachusetts 9.1%
Michigan 33.3%
Minnesota 0.0%
Mississippi 0.0%
Missouri 18.8%
Montana 33.3%
Nebraska 33.3%
Nevada 20.0%
New Hampshire 40.0%
New Jersey 23.7%
New Mexico 44.4%
New York 35.7%
North Carolina 19.1%
North Dakota 0.0%
Ohio 24.3%
Oklahoma 33.3%
Oregon 0.0%
Pennsylvania 28.6%
Rhode Island 0.0%
South Carolina 10.5%
South Dakota 16.7%
Tennessee 28.6%
Texas 38.1%
Utah 25.0%
Vermont 0.0%
Virginia 21.4%
Washington 36.6%
West Virginia 33.3%
Wisconsin 45.5%
Wyoming 12.5%

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Kathy Morris


Kathy Morris

Kathy is the head of content at Zippia with a knack for engaging audiences. Prior to joining Zippia, Kathy worked at Gateway Blend growing audiences across diverse brands. She graduated from Troy University with a degree in Social Science Education.

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