Jennifer Gaddis Faculty

Jennifer Gaddis

Jane Rafferty Thiele Faculty Fellow, Associate Professor
Civil Society and Community Studies Department; Community and Nonprofit Leadership Major
Office 4251
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 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.

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


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

Social Media

Instagram: @JenniferEGaddis
Twitter: @JenniferEGaddis

Recent press

The big business of school lunch, Research Minutes: Educational Research & Policy Podcast, October 15, 2020
The sociology of food, Queens Podcast Lab, October 5, 2020
We can tackle hunger and joblessness at the same time, Mother Jones, October 1, 2020
The silent suffering of cafeteria workers, The Atlantic, September 7, 2020
‘Good news for all of us’: Federal waiver extensions allow MMSD to keep providing free meals to all students, The Cap Times, September 4, 2020
School food politics: A conversation with Jennifer Gaddis, Edge Effects, August 27, 2020
The Labor of Lunch: Why we need real food and real jobs in American public schools, Real Food Media, May 22, 2020
With schools closed, some districts are feeding more people than food banks, Civil Eats, April 7, 2020
Cafeteria workers need support during the COVID-19 pandemic, USA Today, April 5, 2020
The ‘organic child’ ideal holds mothers to an impossible standard, The 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 farmers, Food Tank, January 24, 2020
Making a better school lunch from scratch, Wisconsin State Journal, January 12, 2020
13 books that CEOs think you should read in 2020, Fast Company, December 24, 2019
Q&A: Hey, parents? Jennifer Gaddis wants you to put away the PB&J, Cap Times, December 15, 2019
The Labor of Lunch: My interview with Jennifer Gaddis (and a book giveaway!), The Lunch Tray, December 13, 2019
[Op-ed] It’s long past time to give every child free lunch at school, Washington Post, December 9, 2019
FERN’s Friday Feed: A school-lunch call to arms, The Fern, December 6, 2019
Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How breaking school lunch free from ‘trap of cheapness’ can bolster business, Food Navigator, December 6, 2019
Lunch in American public schools with Jennifer Gaddis, WORT Radio, November 25, 2019
Q&A: Jennifer E. Gaddis on school food, feminism and worker rights, The Fern, November 24, 2019
How to fight back against injustice in your school cafeteria, Teen Vogue, November 13, 2019
Universal free school lunch can end cafeteria shaming. But now it’s under threat, Mother Jones, September 29, 2019
Labor of Lunch discussed on America’s Work Force, America’s Work Force Radio, September 17, 2019
Why school cafeterias should be the frontlines of policy change, The Guardian, September 8, 2019

Personal Website

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.

Planning and Evaluation for Nonprofit Organizations (CSCS 345)

Community and Social Change (CSCS 125)

Human Ecology of Food and Sustainability (CSCS 375)

Community Innovations (CSCS 801)