Degree Granting Department
Heide Castañeda, Ph.D.
Roberta Baer, Ph.D.
Carol Bryant, Ph.D.
cultural perceptions, body image, food, structural constraints, poverty
Migrant and seasonal farmworkers play a critical role in the U.S. economy,
producing food for the American public, while their suffering is often rendered invisible
by their existence on the margins of society. The low wages associated with farm labor
combined with the largely undocumented status of this population severely limits access
to food, housing, and health care, resulting in poor health outcomes. Through the use of a
critical anthropological approach, this research examines the social, cultural, political,
and economic context of obesity among Latino migrant and seasonal farmworkers in
Central Florida. Ethnographic research methods were used to explore perceptions about
the relationships between the body, food, and health among Latino farmworkers,
contextualizing these cultural beliefs within the broader, macro-level factors affecting
health, including immigration, agricultural, and economic policies. Furthermore, this
study compares the perceptions of farmworkers with those of healthcare workers that
serve this community, examining the implications that conceptions of culture and
“cultural competency” have for developing health interventions.
The findings of this research reveal that, in contrast to the beliefs of health
providers, farmworkers do understand the relationship between health and body size, and
do not show preferences for overweight or obese figures. Conceptions of food, on the
farmworker interviews indicate an interest for more nutritional information. This suggests
a need to develop nutritional information that is culturally relevant for Latino
farmworkers. Additionally, however, economic constraints significantly limit
farmworkers’ abilities to purchase sufficient and nutritious foods. The combination of
economic constraints and varying nutritional knowledge has significant health
implications for farmworkers, most notably in terms of the connection to diet-related
health problems such as obesity. The implications of these findings indicate that
nutritional interventions focused solely on education without addressing the economic
and political processes that constrain farmworkers’ agency will have little overall effect
on the health of this population. This research, therefore, emphasizes the importance of
using a holistic approach to understand the complexity of health and nutritional issues
Scholar Commons Citation
Johnson, Melissa H., "Contextualizing Obesity among Latino Farmworkers: A Critical Analysis of Structural and Cultural Processes Affecting Farmworker Health and Nutrition in Central Florida" (2010). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.