Training – Field Study: Bugs for Dinner

Our May Field Study is currently being held on SIFAT’s campus May 12-25. Sarah Murphree, SIFAT co-founder Sarah Corson’s great-niece, is a participant this year. She will be blogging about her experience and giving readers a glimpse of what types of appropriate technologies and community development topics are being presented, as well as a look into who some of the participants are.  A 2012 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Sarah recently directed and produced two short films, one taking first place in the 2013 Nashville Film Festival. She is currently working on her third film, a documentary about Camp Koinonia.

Tuesday evening, Dr. Frank Franklin, Emeritus of Public Health at UAB, came to speak about the benefit of “Bugs for Dinner.” Frank arrived in full bug attire wearing moth wings and springy antennas, preparing us for the crazy night we were about to embark on – eating bugs.

Dr. Frank Franklin, center, shared about the nutritional value of eating bugs in developing countries.

Frank began teaching us about the need for protein in developing countries. Americans typically get their recommended protein intake from meat, eggs or dairy, but in Third World countries, these luxuries are unheard of. Roughly 10 million children under the age of five die each year because of malnutrition and lack of adequate nutrients. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are the most important for development and growth. Without protein to help fuel their growing bodies, they will suffer throughout life. One edible solution to help provide children with the protein they need is bugs.

Some of the food sampled by participants included cookies and brownies with a secret ingredient – bugs!

Bugs are a great source of protein. There are more than 1,700 edible insects, and if you prepare them with other ingredients, cook or boil them, bugs can be very tasty. Bugs are nutritious, plentiful, easy to acquire and simple to prepare. Unlike a cow which typically produces one calf a year, bugs produce thousands of offspring within months.

So why don’t people eat more bugs? It’s because of the association we have with bugs. Frank asked us what were the first words that came to mind when we thought of the word bug. Some of the most common responses were: annoying, loud, itchy and eew. I, too, was guilt of this and thought of the words small and gross. Frank asked us to challenge these connotations we had with bugs and try to think of them as a protein-enriched snack that was good for our bodies. I tried my best to imagine eating a tasty bug, but I was already preparing myself to crunch on a deceased grasshopper of some sort. This would be something I would never forget.

The thought of eating bugs intimidated many students!

“Let us all go next door now for a buggy dessert,” Frank said with delight. “My wife and I have prepared two treats for you with meal worms.” As we walked next door, there were two desserts waiting for us. There were oatmeal cookies with ground up meal worm and chocolate brownie treats with visible meal worms oozing out of the sides. Could I eat this chocolate dessert, with insects poking out from every angle? Could I try to block my mind from the thought of slimy worms in a dirt garden? Yes, I could do it! I had already decided this was much better than my envision of a limp grasshopper. As I took a bite of each dessert, to my surprise they were both more than just tolerable. They were good, very good, and the meal worm taste was nonexistent.

The night was a great success and people loved the treats. The sour faces I once saw were now rushing back in line for seconds. Despite people’s original apprehension toward eating bugs, it was clear to see this was all just a stigma. The facts had been right in front of us all along – bugs are a nutritious, protein-enriched snack that can provide necessary protein. We just needed a wake up call and a little taste of bug to realize what was in front of us all along.