Jennifer GaddisJane Rafferty Thiele Faculty Fellow, Associate Professorshe/her/hers

My research focuses on school food politics and systems change at multiple scales (local, state, national, and comparative international). I bring a care economy and labor-centered perspective to this work. My first book, The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools (University of California Press, 2019), shifted the national conversation about school food by telling the century-long history of the women and communities who created a new form of collective care infrastructure–what we now know as the National School Lunch Program–and by showing what is possible when we invest in scratch cooking, local sourcing, and higher quality jobs for school nutrition workers. My forthcoming book, co-edited with Sarah A. Robert, Transforming School Food Politics Around the World, is an edited collection that brings together scholars, practitioners, and students from nine countries to share creative strategies for pushing policy levers and shifting mindsets, lessons for building inclusive solidarity coalitions, and prefigurative glimpses of school food programs that align with a feminist politics of food and education.

I serve on the advisory board of the National Farm to School Network and am an active member of the Healthy School Meals for All (HSM4A) Wisconsin coalition. My students and I regularly partner with school districts, labor unions, and social movement organizations on community-based research and advocacy projects related to food justice in K-12 schools. Current projects include a statewide study of the Wisconsin school nutrition workforce, conducted in collaboration with the HSM4A Wisconsin coalition, research on socially disadvantaged farmers and value-added producers in Wisconsin’s farm-to-school economy, and the Feelings about Food project, which examines parents’ emotions, decisions, and engagement with school meals.

Select Publications

Hungry for Good Jobs: The State of Wisconsin’s School Nutrition Workforce,” report prepared in collaboration with the Healthy School Meals for All Wisconsin Coalition. February 9, 2023.

Gaddis, Jennifer. The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools. University of California Press (2019).

Gaddis, Jennifer and June Jeon, “Sustainability Transitions in Agri-Food Systems: Insights from South Korea’s Universal Free, Eco-Friendly School Lunch Program,” Agriculture and Human Values, 37 (2020): 1055-107.

Gaddis, Jennifer and Amy K. Coplen, “Reorganizing School Lunch for a More Just and Sustainable Food System in the US,” Feminist Economics 24, no. 3 (2018): 89-112.

Public Scholarship (op-eds)

Washington Post, “Scratch Cooking is Better for Kids, School Food Workers, and Supply Chains,” April 13, 2022 (digital) and April 24, 2022 (print).

Cap Times, “Madison Should Use Fed Funds for Healthier School Meals,” March 1, 2022 (coauthored with Senator Melissa Agard and Representative Francesca Hong).

USA Today, “Cafeteria Workers Need Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” April 5, 2020. (coauthored with Amy Rosenthal).

New York Times, “Why are You Still Packing Lunch for Your Kids?,” February 10, 2020 (digital).

Washington Post, “It’s Long Past Time to Give Every Child Free Lunch at School: Only This Will End Lunch Shaming,” December 12, 2019.

Teen Vogue, “How to Fight for Food Justice in Your School Cafeteria,” November 13, 2019.

The Guardian, “Why School Cafeterias Should be the Frontlines of Policy Change,” September 8, 2019.

Recent Media Mentions and Documentaries

“All School Kids Should Eat Lunch for Free,” Bridget Huber, Mother Jones, January/February 2023 issue.

“What’s Wrong with School Lunch in the US?,” Eat This, AJ+, January 4, 2023.

“School Principles,” The Takeaway, NPR, September 15, 2022.

“Free School Meals Helped Families During the Pandemic. This Fall, Those Lunches Won’t Return.” Nadra Nittle, 19th News, August 1, 2022.

“The Future of Free School Lunch Programs,” Wisconsin Public Radio, June 7, 2022.

“Lunch Ladies Are Tired of Being Underpaid and Overlooked,” Nora De La Cour, Jacobin, March 13, 2022.

“Why We Need Real Food and Living Wage Jobs in Public Schools,” Your Call with Rose Aguilar, KALW, Jan. 6, 2020.

“Private Sector Problems,” Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas, HBO, May, 10, 2019.

Classes Taught

  • Course number: CSCS 125: Course title: Community and Social Change
  • Course number: CSCS 345: Course title: Evaluation and Planning for Community and Nonprofit Organizations
  • Course number: CSCS 375: Course title: Human Ecology of Food and Sustainability
  • Course number: CSCS 801: Course title: Community Innovations in Civil Society
A white woman smiling, with brown, straight hair, wearing a white shirt and gold necklace.


  • Civil Society & Community Studies

Degree Program

  • BS Community & Nonprofit Leadership
  • PhD Human Ecology: Civil Society & Community Research


  • Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies
  • Havens-Wright Center for Social Justice
  • Center for Cooperatives
  • School for Workers Labor Advisory Board
  • Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
  • Slow Food UW (Faculty Advisor)


  • PhD, Social Ecology (Environmental Studies), Yale University
  • BS, Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Office: 4251 Nancy Nicholas Hall

Phone: 617-320-4501



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