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Jennifer Elaine Gaddis

Professor of Civil Society and Community Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Chapter Member: Wisconsin SSN

About Jennifer

Gaddis’s research focuses on public school-lunch programs and their potential benefits for children, families, food-chain workers, and the environment. Overarching themes in Gaddis’s writings include local food systems, ecological sustainability, community-labor organizing, care work, and feminist food politics. Gaddis' research began with the US National School Lunch Program and has since expanded to include comparative research in China, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, and Finland that looks at how civil society activism, corporate interests, and national policy priorities shape the social justice and ecological goals of government-sponsored school lunch programs. An additional area of research focuses on indigenous food sovereignty activism across Turtle Island (North America). Gaddis serves as the advisor and board member of Slow Food-UW, a registered student organization and 501c3 nonprofit organization.

In the News

"Madison Should Use Fed Funds for Healthier School Meals," Jennifer Elaine Gaddis (with Francesca Hong ), Guest Columns, The Cap Times, March 1, 2022.
Guest to discuss politics of school lunch programs on The Bite, Mother Jones, Jennifer Elaine Gaddis, September 20, 2019.
"Why School Cafeterias Should be the Frontlines of Policy Change," Jennifer Elaine Gaddis, Guardian, September 8, 2019.


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

Notes that school cooks and cafeterias are not a cost to be minimized, but rather the greatest allies of the movement to bring "real" food to American school kitchens and cafeterias. Explains the need to empower them to cook fresh, healthy, and sustainable school lunches for the nation's children.

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

Proposes an agenda for addressing social justice and ecological issues within public school-lunch programs by reorganizing school food provisioning in ways that maximize care for both people and the planet.

"Forging Links between Food Chain Labor Activists and Academics " (with Charles Z. Levoke, Nathan McClintock, Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, Amy K. Coplen, Joann Lo, Felipe Tendick-Matesanz, and Anelyse M. Weiler). Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 6, no. 2 (2016): 129-142.

Presents several examples of how activists and academics are partnering to advance food justice. Includes discussion of common challenges and recommends that potential partners: connect to their personal experience; build trust; develop common strategies; build on previous community efforts; and, appreciate power differences and reciprocate accordingly.

"Tasting Sustainability: Using Multi-Sensory Learning to “Retune” Taste Preferences" in Learner-Centered Teaching Activities for Environmental and Sustainability Studies, edited by Loren B. Byrne (Springer, 2016), 165-172.

Provides a lesson plan for a classroom-based activity that could be used in high school or college classrooms to teach students about food systems issues. Includes several tasting activities that encourage students to use multiple senses (e.g., taste, sight, touch) to explore differences in seemingly uniform "commodities" like milk and chocolate.

"Action Research" (with Brian Christens, Victoria Faust, Paula Tran Inzeo, Carolina S. Sarmiento, and Shannon M. Sparks), in Handbook of Methodological Approaches to Community-Based Research: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods, edited by Leonard A. Jason and David S. Glenwick (Oxford University Press, 2016), 243-252.

Defines action research as an approach that orchestrates cyclical processes of action and research that are simultaneously contributing to addressing practical concerns related to social issues and to the goals of social science. Includes a discussion of the design and conduct of action research, along with several case study examples.

"Mobilizing to Re-value and Re-skill Foodservice Labor in US School Lunchrooms: A Pathway to Community-level Food Sovereignty?" Radical Teacher 98 (2014): 15-21.

Tells the story of why US school kitchens do so little on-site cooking. Highlights several worker-led campaigns to bring "real food and real jobs" to American school kitchens and cafeteria.