Dr. Emma Tsui, a professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy examined efforts to provide good food to vulnerable populations and how those efforts affect the individuals doing the cooking. Her work is published in Food, Culture, and Society.
[Photo: Dr. Emma Tsui]
Efforts to provide “good” food to vulnerable populations in the United States are proliferating, and one major set of venues for these initiatives is publicly funded foodservices. The work that cooks do under new healthy food initiatives is often overlooked. Cooks shape what ends up on the plate and what is eaten, and thus their work influences the success of these efforts. At the same time, their work contributes to their own labor experiences and lives in important ways.
Dr. Tsui studied the experiences of cooks implementing a healthy meal program in childcare centers, afterschool programs, senior centers, and shelters in New York City. She found that healthy meal programs teach cooks new skills and offer new avenues for caring for clients and family members. However, these programs also placed additional demands on and created new anxieties for cooks, particularly in terms of in how they communicated their work to the leaders of “good” food initiatives. Cooks’ communication challenges and silences provided insight into the functioning of racial and class inequities within the “good” food movement.