Is caring for children a private or public responsibility? What (or whom) should be cared for collectively? How much is care worth and who decides? Why, in this political and environmental moment, is a new economy of care necessary and how can it be achieved? How is school lunch a feminist issue? This talk addresses these questions, offering a history of the present US National School Lunch Program (NSLP) through a careful analysis of multiple waves of school lunch activism, dating from the material feminists of the 1890s to today’s “real food” advocates. Drawing on a range of historical and ethnographic materials, this talk will bring to life the struggles and triumphs of women (and their allies) who have organized against the forces that cheapen the NSLP and the care it provides. By way of conclusion, the talk will make the case for revaluing and re-skilling low-wage “lunch ladies” and place this argument within a broader discussion of why the social organization of care matters for feminist food politics.
Jennifer Gaddis is an assistant professor of Civil Society and Community Studies at the UW-Madison with a special interest in transdisciplinary action-oriented research related to food justice, alternative economies, and the sociology of care. Her work in these areas has been featured in multiple journals including Feminist Economics and the Journal of Agriculture, Food, Sustainability, and Community Development. This talk is based on a portion of her forthcoming book The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools, to be published by the University of California Press in Fall 2019.
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