Jennifer Gaddis

Position title: Resident Fellow (2017-2018)

School of Human Ecology, UW-Madison

Black and white photograph of Jennifer Gaddis

The Labor of Lunch: A New Economics of Care in American Public Schools

The seventy-year history of the US National School Lunch Program (NSLP) embodies the contested values, ideologies, and unequal power structures that govern both social reproduction and food systems. 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, the NSLP continues to suffer from low student-participation, excessive plate waste, and high employee-turnover. Thus, a central project of the book is to rethink the social organization of school lunch, asking how it could be changed, and to what ends for economic, racial, environmental, and reproductive justice. 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 of Civil Society and Community Studies at UW-Madison. Before joining the faculty at UW-Madison in 2014, she received her PhD in Environmental Studies from Yale University. As a transdisciplinary scholar, her research lies at the intersection of critical food studies, feminist economics, US political and social history, and environmental sociology. She has received fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, and multiple private foundations to support this work. Currently she is finishing her book manuscript The Labor of Lunch: A New Economics of Care in American Public Schools (under contract with University of California Press) while in residence at the Institute for Research in the Humanities.