Jennifer Gaddis

Position title: Assistant Professor, Civil Society and Community Studies, School of Human Ecology


Phone: 608-265-3759

4251 Nancy Nicholas Hall, 1300 Linden Dr. Madison, WI, 53706

Jennifer Gaddis headshot

I joined the Department of Civil Society and Community Studies in 2014 after earning a Ph.D. from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. I am also a faculty affiliate of the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies, the Center for Child and Family Well-being, and the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. I serve as an advisory board member to the Haven’s Center for Social Justice and faculty advisor for Slow Food UW.

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 often find myself working at the intersection of critical food studies, environmental sociology, and feminist political economy. My research has been appeared in edited volumes on action research and learner-centered pedagogy, as well as the peer-reviewed journals Feminist EconomicsRadical Teacher, and Journal of Agriculture, Food, Sustainability, and Community Development.

My forthcoming book on the US National School Lunch Program (NSLP), tentatively entitled “The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools,” will be published by the University of California Press in November 2019. In the book, I use ethnographic, archival, and participatory research methods, to move beyond critique to envision and advocate for a politics of the possible. For this work I received a First Book Award from the UW-Madison Center for the Humanities. The research for the book was generously supported by the National Science Foundation, the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation, the Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, the Meta Schroeder Beckner Endowment Grant, and the UW-Madison Institute for Research in the Humanities.

My next book-length project is a cross-country comparison of the social organization of school lunch programs in China, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, and Finland. I am interested in 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 these projects that are national and international in scope, I am the principal investigator of a research project in South Madison—funded by US Department of Agriculture and the Center for Child and Family Well-being—that examines food justice and culinary agency among an inter-generational group of parents, children, and youth. I am also partnering with Becca Dower, a Civil Society and Community Research doctoral student, to collect and share oral histories of Indigenous food sovereignty activism within the Oneida and Ho-Chunk Nations.

I regularly teach two undergraduate courses, CSCS 125 Community and Social Change and CSCS 345 Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations. My undergraduate teaching at UW-Madison has been recognized by the OneSoHE21 Early Career Faculty Award, University Housing’s Honored Instructor Award, the Center for Educational Opportunity’s Dr. Brenda Pfaehler Award for Excellence, and the Wade and Bev Fetzer Fund for Excellence.