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University of Wisconsin–Madison
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The Wisconsin Idea in Action

Healthy farm-to-school meals: Empowering lunch ladies as change-agents

The primary goal of this project is to cultivate lunch ladies as community-based leaders who are inspired and committed to making healthy, farm-to-school meals the norm in their local cafeterias. The project uses interviews with foodservice workers in four urban school districts in the upper midwest. Each of these school districts has active farm to school efforts and/or on-site cooking. This research will generate peer-reviewed articles, a publication geared toward school food practitioners, and a set of short peer-to-peer video testimonials that focuses on worker experiences that will benefit school foodservice programs in Wisconsin and across the country.


Alan Talaga and Jennifer Gaddis produced a series of short videos about the labor issues impacting school lunch programs. The videos show why it is important for school lunch programs to be better funded in order to create high quality jobs for food-chain workers in local communities. The videos also show how investing in these workers enables schools to serve much healthier food, which has enormous economic implications in terms of healthcare costs for children (especially as they age).

Focus Areas

Project Leader

Jennifer Gaddis
Assistant Professor

Civil Society & Community Studies
School or College
School of Human Ecology

This project was last updated on May 2, 2019. Do you have an update for this project? Find out how to contribute.