Jennifer GaddisAssociate Professor of Civil Society & Community Studies | Jane Rafferty Thiele Faculty Fellow-Graduate Teachingshe/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.

Selected Publications

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

Gaddis, J., & Jeon, J. (2020). Sustainability Transitions in Agri-Food Systems: Insights from South Korea’s Universal Free, Eco-Friendly School Lunch Program. Agriculture and Human Values, 37, 1055-1071.

Gaddis, J., & Coplen, A.K. (2018). Reorganizing School Lunch for a More Just and Sustainable Food System in the US. Feminist Economics, 24(3), 89-112.

For a full list of publications, see Gaddis’ CV.

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  • Civil Society & Community Studies

Degree Program

  • BS Community & Organizational Development
  • PhD Human Ecology: Civil Society & Community Research



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


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