Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration (PhD)

Degree Level





Jeff B. Murray

Committee Member

Scot Burton

Second Committee Member

Lori Holyfield


consumer socialization, food in schools, food literacy, food socialization, marketing, public policy, social theory


Consumer socialization literature has focused on individual socialization agents and their isolated effects. However, as John (1999) pointed out, children do not grow up in a social vacuum. Instead, the multitude of agents socializing children find their narratives interacting and their effects continually shaped and co-created. To understand how school-age children learn about food, I interrogate the complexity of socialization in three essays.

In the first essay, I take an ethnographic approach to investigate the interactive effect peers and adults, namely service workers, have on children’s food socialization in a public-school lunchroom. By combining a Loseke’s (2007) layered narrative model and the Hunt-Vitell model of marketing ethics (1986, 2006), I posit that value is co-created between consumers; organizations, including frontline service workers; as well as greater institutional and cultural narratives. Of note, frontline workers serve as cultural translators, aiding young consumers as they seek to understand cultural values and norms codified into feeding practices.

The second essay takes a structural approach to understand how organizations, in this case school districts, implement programs to promote greater justice. Using the Integrative Justice Model as a guide, deductive followed by axial coding is used to analyze school nutrition director’s unique perspectives on implementing the National School Lunch Program. Leaning on market orchestration, the imposed system both orchestrates and obstructs distributive justice. Additionally, empowerment is shown to be action to promote justice, not a consequence of a just system. The expanded model is both prescriptive and descriptive, offering a structure organizations can follow to promote greater distributive justice as well as an example of practices that align with the different axiological pillars.

Finally, the third essay looks at parents and the home as a socialization agent and site of socialization. A national survey was collected to illuminate how parents and the home, as a multi-dimensional site of socialization, shapes children’s relationships with food and subsequent food choices. Taken together, my dissertation offers researchers, educators, and policymakers a better understanding of the complexity of consumer food socialization and how both parents and organizations empower children and promote justice.