Opening Young Minds to Edible Insects
Getting the general population to understand that insects are a nutritious and delicious food source isn’t always easy. There are yucks and icks, and lots of “No thanks.” So, what if we went about this differently and went to kids instead?
About 26 percent of the world’s population is 14 or younger. More than 60 million U.S. children ages 0-14 live in the United States. Many of these young people, wise to the importance of sustainability and water scarcity, are already driving transformative change and others are poised to do so.
Engaging the youngest segment of the population in hands-on activities is often the most effective tactic. The next time you’re invited to speak at a school or to a Scout or 4-H group, consider adding an interactive aspect to your presentation. Here are three simple ideas:
Taste tests are fantastic. But instead of simply handing wary tasters a few roasted insects, ask them to sample items they already know and love that are made with insect protein: cookies, chips, bread. See if they can taste the difference between a cookie made with cricket powder and one made without. Baby steps are sometimes the best first steps.
Cooking! Kids love to measure and mix. No oven? No problem. Help them make no-bake energy balls with cricket protein. For even less fuss, you can pre-mix dough for cricket-powder dog treats and let the kids roll and cut them out.
A 2020 study conducted by HiPP Organic found that children have a growing awareness about recycling, global warming, and pollution. More than half of the parent respondents (52 percent) described their kids as being “passionate” about protecting the environment. With that in mind, talk to students about how much water it takes to produce a pound of beef (roughly 1,800 gallons) vs. a pound of crickets (1 gallon). But 1,800 is a really big number. To help kids get a grasp of how big, help them make a paper chain with each link representing a gallon. That completed 1,800-link chain creates quite the visual and the kids with whom I’ve done the activity have gotten really invested in it.
Reading or hearing about entomophagy is important. But supporting those discussions with hands-on activity may be what it takes to capture the attention of the world’s future decision makers.
Mary Boone is the author of BUGS FOR BREAKFAST: How Eating Insects Could Help Save the Planet, a nonfiction book for readers ages 9 and up (Chicago Review Press, 2021).