Jennifer's dissertation research probes the historical evolution and current state of the National School Lunch Program, questioning the relationship between labor, technological change, and environmental sustainability. Historical analysis centers around the state of being “Fit to Feed,” insofar as it encompasses issues of ‘what’is fit to feed (i.e. the shifting nature of foodstuffs in terms of their effects on both the human body and the broader ecology) and ‘who’ is fit to do the feeding (i.e. bringing into question the gendering of foodservice labor and shifting job characteristics). Contemporary analysis focuses on instances of scratch cooking and farm-to-school programming. The research relies on a mixed-methods approach including participant observation, archival research, interviews, content analysis, and quantitative survey research.
Ample research has been conducted on agricultural production and childhood nutrition, but very little has focused on the producers of school meals and their role in improving public health. Although the existence of deskilling in the school food industry is widely accepted in applied and academic literature alike, the mechanisms underpinning it are often assumed, rather than explored in detail. Jennifer's research will contribute to the refinement of theories of changing socio-technical systems and their subsequent effects on both the labor process and the environment. Further, by exploring a form of public caretaking, this research will offer new insights into how the work of ‘feeding’ is valued under industrial capitalism.
Jennifer's research is supported by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation (2012 Fellow), and a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (2013).