green mosaic wall
People

Jennifer GaddisJane Rafferty Thiele Faculty Fellow, Associate Professor

My research uses critical feminist and ecological lenses to examine the social, political, and economic organization of everyday life. As a transdisciplinary and action-oriented scholar, I use ethnographic, archival, and participatory research methods to move beyond critique to envision and advocate for a politics of the possible.

My first book, The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools, is a work of activist scholarship that centers the perspectives of school lunch activists and frontline cafeteria workers who are fighting for food justice in communities across the United States. My second book-length project draws on fieldwork in China, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, and Finland to examine how civil society activism, corporate interests, and national policy priorities shape the social justice and ecological goals of government-sponsored school lunch programs. By uncovering how, when, and to what extent school lunch programs operate as a site of resistance to the status quo—in terms of advancing food sovereignty, just labor practices, and ecological sustainability—this research will offer insight into just how pervasive the social expectation that school lunch, and care more broadly, should be “cheap,” and what can be done to shift the conversation to a more generative space from which to collectively reimagine the social organization of care through public institutions.

In addition to this research on public-school lunch programs, I partner with graduate students in the Civil Society and Community Research program on several community-based projects related to food justice in urban communities and food sovereignty in Native communities.


The personal is political.

–1960s feminist movement

My research uses critical feminist and ecological lenses to examine the social, political, and economic organization of everyday life. As a transdisciplinary and action-oriented scholar, I use ethnographic, archival, and participatory research methods to move beyond critique to envision and advocate for a politics of the possible.

My first book, The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools, is a work of activist scholarship that centers the perspectives of school lunch activists and frontline cafeteria workers who are fighting for food justice in communities across the United States. My second book-length project draws on fieldwork in China, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, and Finland to examine how civil society activism, corporate interests, and national policy priorities shape the social justice and ecological goals of government-sponsored school lunch programs. By uncovering how, when, and to what extent school lunch programs operate as a site of resistance to the status quo—in terms of advancing food sovereignty, just labor practices, and ecological sustainability—this research will offer insight into just how pervasive the social expectation that school lunch, and care more broadly, should be “cheap,” and what can be done to shift the conversation to a more generative space from which to collectively re imagine the social organization of care through public institutions.

In addition to this research on public-school lunch programs, I partner with graduate students in the Civil Society and Community Research program on several community-based projects related to food justice in urban communities and food sovereignty in Native communities.

 


Recent press

The big business of school lunchResearch Minutes: Educational Research & Policy Podcast, October 15, 2020
The sociology of foodQueens Podcast Lab, October 5, 2020
We can tackle hunger and joblessness at the same timeMother Jones, October 1, 2020
The silent suffering of cafeteria workersThe Atlantic, September 7, 2020
‘Good news for all of us’: Federal waiver extensions allow MMSD to keep providing free meals to all studentsThe Cap Times, September 4, 2020
School food politics: A conversation with Jennifer GaddisEdge Effects, August 27, 2020
The Labor of Lunch: Why we need real food and real jobs in American public schoolsReal Food Media, May 22, 2020
With schools closed, some districts are feeding more people than food banksCivil Eats, April 7, 2020
Cafeteria workers need support during the COVID-19 pandemicUSA Today, April 5, 2020
The ‘organic child’ ideal holds mothers to an impossible standardThe Week, February 29, 2020
[Op-ed] Why are you still packing lunch for your kids?New York Times, February 10, 2020
California budget boosts healthy food for kids and markets for farmersFood Tank, January 24, 2020
Making a better school lunch from scratchWisconsin State Journal, January 12, 2020


Selected Publications

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 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.

Charles Z. Levkoe, Nathan Mclintock, Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, Amy K. Coplen, Jennifer Gaddis, Joann Lo, Felipe Tendick-Matesanz, and Anelyse Weiler. “Forging Links Between Food Chain Labor Activists and Academics.” Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 6, no. 2 (2016): 1-14.

Gaddis, Jennifer. “Mobilizing to Re-value and Re-skill Foodservice Labor in U.S. School Lunchrooms: A Pathway to Community-level Food Sovereignty?” Radical Teacher 98 (2014): 15-21.

Classes Taught

  • Course number: CSCS 125: Course title: Community and Social Change
  • Course number: CSCS 345: Course title: Planning and Evaluation for Nonprofit Organizations
  • Course number: CSCS 375: Course title: Human Ecology of Food and Sustainability
  • Course number: CSCS 801: Course title: Community Innovations
Headshot of Jennifer Gaddis.

Department

  • Civil Society & Community Studies

Degree Program

  • Civil Society & Community Research

Affiliations

  • 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)

Education

  • PhD, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University
  • BS, Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Contact

Office: 4251 Nancy Nicholas Hall

Phone: 608-265-3759

Email: jgaddis@wisc.edu

Websites:

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