Forced Choice Restriction in Promoting Sustainable Food Consumption: Intended and Unintended Effects of the Mandatory Vegetarian Day in Helsinki Schools

Chiara Lombardini*, Leena Lankoski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper discusses the use of forced restriction of food choice as an instrument of food policy by using the mandatory Helsinki School District weekly vegetarian day as a natural experiment. Overall, the results show that the initiative produced a mixture of intended and unintended effects. On vegetarian days, there were clear signs of non-compliance in the short term, manifested as a decrease in the participation in school lunches and in the amount of food taken to the plate and as an increase in plate waste. In the medium term, the only sign of non-compliance was a decrease in the amount of food taken to the plate. The difference between the short- and medium-term effects can be interpreted as a weakening of non-compliance, as a change in the way it manifested itself, or a combination of both. The effects of the vegetarian day differed between school levels. In the short term, the clearest indications of non-compliance were found in lower-secondary schools. However, these schools also registered positive spillover effects in the medium term. The best way to reduce the unintended effects of a policy involving forced choice restriction depends on the causes of such effects. In the case of psychological reactance, default options may be preferable to forced choice restriction. For hedonic dislike, menu development should be prioritized, and moral suasion and information campaigns may help where non-compliance stems from a disagreement with the objectives and effectiveness of the intervention. Thus, forced choice restriction should be accompanied by detailed data collection to understand the possible causes of intended and unintended effects and to tailor the intervention to the target group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-178
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Consumer Policy
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Consumer behaviour
  • Finland
  • Food policy
  • School lunches
  • Sustainability

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