Serving Amid Institutional Camouflage : The Invisibility of School Food Service Workers Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/2v23vz022

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  • The products, processes, and tools of school feeding programs have been examined from multiple perspectives and disciplines in an attempt to improve child nutrition outcomes, to support local and national agriculture, and increase sustainability practices. There is little qualitative research on the role, needs, and experiences of school food service workers, and what is available tends to focus on how workers can be used to improve student’s nutritional profiles rather than the workers own experiences and needs as members of the labor economy. Unlike other studies on school feeding programs that are food-centric and mostly quantitative, this fills a gap in the literature as a qualitative, worker-centric study. Ten school food service workers in a suburban northwest Oregon school district where interviewed, and participant observation through volunteer work took place in one elementary school, one middle school and one high school. Combined with a historical account school food service, and a review of current studies, the data shows that school food service workers are invisible, and excluded from full participation in the programs they deliver. One way to increase worker visibility and seek advocacy opportunities is to trace the workers’ historical and current associations, and the corresponding narratives born of the controversies and contradictions of neoliberalism. Tracing associations led to the following researcher recommendations: 1) Workers need access to living wages, and affordable health care; 2) Need national demographic data to justify wages, hours, and benefits; 3) Need worker-centric research to balance the food-centric literature; 4) School Food Service Workers need a dedication National Union; 5) Labor unions should use this data to increase worker visibility; 6) Educational unions should assist workers in advocating for a USDA certification program; 7) Training for certification must go beyond culinary training to include nutrition training, farm-to-school program development, school-garden development, and nutrition and sustainability education training, and summer meal programs; and 8) National service programs should be administered directly through the schools rather than non-profit programs and be used as a jobs strategy to fill gaps in employment
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