This thesis explores cultural constructions of health, health foods, and natural foods shared by people who shop at a health food co-op. Two theoretical models were reviewed. The first theory relates beliefs about health to ecological setting, and the other theorizes that health food movement has many characteristics which fit Geertz's definition of religion. Data was collected through participant observation, informal and formal interviews, and surveys. The surveys were designed to reveal what cultural categories co-op customers shared regarding health and foods. The findings supported both theoretical models. The findings revealed that Co-op customers shared both "internal" and "external" explanations for health and illness. In addition, co-op customers also shared the system of symbols and worldview of the health food movement. This system of symbols and worldview is characteristic of a "little" religion. A further study might look at how constructions of health and health food differ cross-culturally.


Frese, Pamela


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

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