Little healthy and vegetarian food at Wageningen Liberation festival

May 2, 2024

As much as 92% of the food and drinks offered at the Liberation Festival (May 5th 2022) in Wageningen does not contribute to a healthy diet. Almost half of the food offered (46%) was vegetarian (without fish or meat), but this consisted mainly of fries, deep-fried snacks and pastries and was therefore largely (98%) unhealthy. This is what Tamika Wopereis concludes from a study that is part of her PhD research at the Consumption and Healthy Lifestyle Chair Group at Wageningen University & Research.

“Of course you occasionally crave for something unhealthy, but now it is almost impossible for festival visitors to choose something healthy. This should not be the case, especially at such a large public festival,” Wopereis believes. Wopereis went to the festival with a number of questions. What was the availability of healthy and vegetarian food at the 2022 Liberation Festival (May 5th ) in Wageningen, and what did festival-goers think of it? In doing so, she asked whether festival-goers thought it was normal and acceptable to eat healthy and vegetarian food at festivals?

Food availability at the Liberation festival

Visitors of the Liberation Festival could buy food and drinks at 75 stalls. Wopereis and colleagues investigated what kind of food and drinks were offered at each stall. In terms of drinks, alcoholic drinks (23%) and sugary drinks (14%) were the most frequently offered. The food that was most frequently offered mainly consisted of deep-fried savoury snacks (14%), fast food sandwiches (such as hamburgers, kebabs) (9%), and pastries (4%).

Difficult to eat healthy at the festival

Wopereis and colleagues looked at visitors' perceptions of the food environment in addition to the food and drink on offer at the festival. 153 festival-goers gave their opinion on the accessibility, affordability, availability, diversity, and quality of the food and drinks at the festival through a questionnaire. This questionnaire showed that visitors viewed the food environment as not conducive to healthy eating. They indicated that they thought healthy food was not sufficiently available, easily accessible and affordable.

Healthy and vegetarian food not seen as 'normal' and 'acceptable'

Overall, visitors did not think it was 'normal' and 'acceptable' for visitors to eat healthy and vegetarian food at the festival. Still, they thought it was slightly more normal to eat vegetarian than to eat healthy at the festival. As is sometimes said, seeing food makes you eat. In this case, visitors probably saw more people eating vegetarian food than healthy, reflecting the food on offer. This also changes people's views on what is normal eating behaviour. Wopereis: ‘If there is little healthy food available, it becomes difficult for people to buy it and eat it.’

How can it be improved?

“The findings from this study show that the food environment at a public festival does not contribute to a healthy dietary pattern. Various parties are looking for ways to improve the food environment. This research shows that festivals can also be addressed to make healthier food more accessible and appealing. The majority of festival-goers thought that healthy and affordable food was not sufficiently available nor easily accessible. To tackle this issue, municipalities could consider implementing event policies to make it easier for festival-goers to choose healthy and/or sustainable food. For example, they could consider guidelines for what type of food is offered and the proportion of healthy/unhealthy food,” Wopereis said.

The results of this study were recently published in the scientific journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health and especially show the lack of healthy and vegetarian food on offer. Read the whole article here.