The Labor of Lunch: A New Economics of Care in American Public Schools
October 16, 2017 3:30 PM
212 University Club Building
School of Human Ecology, UW-Madison
This book-in-progress uses ethnographic, archival, and participatory research to examine school lunch as a political arena where grassroots activists, powerful “Big Food” companies, and state agencies fight for control over children’s diets, women’s reproductive labor, and the future of the domestic food system. Despite recent legislative reforms to the NSLP during the Obama administration, low student-participation, excessive plate waste, and high employee-turnover continue to plague the US National School Lunch Program (NSLP). But what if school lunches, especially healthy items like fruits and vegetables, looked and tasted so good that kids actually wanted to eat them? What if the people who prepared the meals earned enough to support their families and had enough time to truly connect with the kids? And what if all students could eat for free? By inviting readers to imagine a “politics of the possible,” The Labor of Lunch aims to spark a much-needed conversation about organizing for food justice in school kitchens and cafeterias.
Jennifer Gaddis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Society & Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her PhD in environmental studies from Yale University. Her research examines the evolving social, political, and economic organization of everyday life, particularly in relation to reproductive labor and care work. She is spending her semester at the IRH working on a book, The Labor of Lunch, written in the tradition of public sociology. Her most recent article on school lunch programs will appear in the January 2018 issue of Feminist Economics.