dr. HM (Hilje) van der Horst

dr. HM (Hilje) van der Horst

Assistant Professor

I am an Assistant Professor in the Consumption and Healthy Lifestyles group. My research aims to understand the diversity of consumption practices and the conditions that shape this diversity. Within this broad area, I specialise in sustainable consumption and inequality, for example in research on food aid, poverty and food practices. 

Increasingly, my research takes a forward-looking approach, seeking to articulate possible futures and innovative interventions.

My background is in sociology, human geography and ethnology and I hold a PhD from the University of Amsterdam. Previously I worked at the Delft University of Techology and the Meertens Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) 

I enjoy working in interdisciplinary teams and am fascinated by the different kinds of methods that can help unravel the dynamics of practices as well as possible future directions.

My current projects are as follows

Impact of social policies on What works, for whom and under what circumstances? (ZonMw)

PhD candidate Eline van Bennekom

In this project we aim to realise health potential in lifestyle behaviours and mental health for people receiving social assistance benefits, and people facing problematic debts. Social policy consists of crucial instruments for improving capital in those groups, but can also have adverse effects and lead to additional burden. This project aims for a breakthrough in health potential through 1) better understanding how social policy can contribute to realising health potential through improving capital, and 2) implementing those insights to accomplish conditions necessary for a break-through in health potential.

Shame and stigma in poverty and poverty interventions (ZonMw) 

PhD candidate Margret Franssen

Shame plays a central role in thinking about poverty. Research shows that it is precisely in contact with public services and social workers that shame can be reinforced. This is worrying, as several studies have shown that shame makes people avoid care, resulting in negative health effects. Given the harmful effects of shame, it is evident that shame should be avoided or at least not reinforced in interventions around poverty. However, how assistance and interventions address and influence shame, and which characteristics of the approach are important in this, is little researched. Therefore, this project explicitly investigates this question.


Understanding dignity of food aid receivers in Europe (WASS)

PhD candidate Thirza Andriessen

Food insecurity in Europe is a substantial problem. While Foodbanks help food insecure people to put food on the table, several scholars have attested that charitable food aid can violate receivers’ dignity. Factors deemed responsible for such negative effects are the repurposing of food waste, not providing product choice, and maintaining giver–receiver hierarchies in interactions. Meanwhile, new third sector initiatives have emerged throughout Europe trying to provide a non-stigmatizing, dignified approach to food aid. However, there is limited understanding of what exactly jeopardises dignity in the context of food aid. In this project we combine theories of dignity, consumption, solidarity and empowerment to frame third sector food aid initiatives, unravel how various food aid initiatives affect the dignity of receivers and develop recommendations for food aid organizations to protect the dignity of food aid receivers.

Tipping the Balance in Dietary Change (NWO)

PhD candidate Yolie Michielsen

Current food environments are characterised by a wide availability of unhealthy and highly processed foods, promoting unhealthy and unsustainable dietary patterns. The interdisciplinary Tipping the Balance program aims to contribute to the acceleration of a shift towards more plant-based diets through co-creating healthier and more sustainable food environments in living lab settings and through unravelling the complex behavioural aftereffects of changes in such environments on a spatial, intra-individual, and emotional level. 

The aim of our work package is to develop a better understanding of resistance against transitioning to more plant-based consumption. Group dynamics are often overlooked when studying response to changes in the food environment and foodways. Therefore, this project focuses on dynamics between and within groups in social processes that are part of transitioning to plant-based consumption. For instance, it gives insights into the dynamics within a loosely connected group of social media users responding to Meat Curtailment Policies, and shows how such a group engages in similar discourse that perpetuates various socio-political ideological notions, such as a governmental body obstructing the free choice to eat according to Dutch food customs.


Rethinking the place of meat in religious traditions through ritual intervention (NWO)

Researcher Moos Koning

This project aims to achieve a better understanding of the role of meat at festive occasions. Based on the idea that ritualised behaviour can hinder but also promote change, this project asks the what is the potential of ritual interventions in supporting a transition to more healthy and sustainable food practices?
Following a series of preparatory workshops, the project team will conduct participatory research on festive occasions, such as Christmas, the Feast of Sacrifice, and the BBQ where the consumption of meat plays a prominent role. One of the project outcomes is a framework for heritage interventions in (semi-)private settings aimed at a sustainable future for people and planet.


Transition to a sustainable food system (NWA)

PhD candidate Elline van Ballegooij

Postdoc Jonas House 

Current production and consumption of food have come at alarming environmental and health costs (e.g. nitrogen crisis, unhealthy diets). In cooperation with food system stakeholders, this project  investigates a number of key questions,

1. How can the current Dutch food system be defined and what are the dynamics of, and interactions within, the current food system in the Netherlands? What are the interfaces between the food system and adjacent systems such as water or energy?

2. How can a future sustainable Dutch food system (with any subsystems) be defined? Which new value systems underlie this; on the basis of which characteristics (e.g. on the basis of widely supported sustainability criteria such as the Paris Climate Agreement, Convention on Biological Diversity and SDGs) is their success evaluated?

3. How can the transition task take shape in an area-focused approach? How do the many sustainability initiatives in the Netherlands contribute concretely to the transition to a sustainable food system in the Netherlands and beyond?

4. How might a transition from the current system to a new system be achieved, and which control mechanisms (governance instruments) can accelerate this? Where are opportunities (e.g. business cases, scaling up excellent initiatives), which obstacles need to be overcome (e.g. vested interests, path-dependency of established systems), where are paradigmatic tensions, are there ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of such a transition?