The Labor of Lunch
Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools
by Jennifer E. Gaddis
Pub Date 12 Nov 2019
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Children, parents, and pundits agree that there’s a problem with school lunch. Big Food companies have largely replaced the nation’s school cooks by supplying cafeterias with cheap precooked hamburger patties and chicken nuggets chock-full of industrial fillers. Yet it's no secret that meals cooked from scratch with nutritious, locally sourced ingredients are better for children, workers, and the environment. So why not empower "lunch ladies" to do more than just reheat ready-made industrial food? And why not organize together to make healthy, ethically sourced, free school lunches a reality?
The Labor of Lunch aims to spark a progressive movement that will transform food in American schools, and with it the lives of thousands of low-paid cafeteria workers and the millions of children they feed. By providing a feminist history of the National School Lunch Program, Jennifer Gaddis recasts the humble school lunch as an important and often overlooked form of public care. Through vivid narration and moral heft, The Labor of Lunch offers a stirring call to action and a blueprint for school lunch reforms capable of delivering a healthier, more equitable, caring, and sustainable future.
“What might the history of school lunch teach today’s food justice activists about intersectionality? How did the private sector come to dominate what America’s youth eat? Why are most people readier to think of ‘lunch ladies’ as administrators of slop than as front-line care workers? Jennifer Gaddis’s swift prose and sharp mind keep you turning the pages through generations of women’s movement activism, lunch shaming, chicken nuggets, and a corps sacrificing their own welfare so that ‘their kids’ might eat well. The result is a brilliant history and incisive analysis of the cheap care that hides behind the modern school lunch.”––Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System
“In this pathbreaking book, Gaddis shows that labor—and specifically by lunch ladies—is the missing ingredient in the recipe for success in the National School Lunch Program. A must-read for anyone who cares about children, food, education, labor, or well-being.”––Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology, Boston College
“This is an important book, one that advances the scholarship of food systems and public policy, and one that will contribute to mobilizing much-needed change in our national school food programs.”––Janet Poppendieck, author of Free for All: Fixing School Food in America