Welcome bug enthusiasts!
We have a joke for you!
Q: What do frogs order when they go to a restaurant? (keep reading to find the answer)
Through this blog, if you choose to follow it, we will share with you our experiences in conducting a small research project in Vancouver following the guidelines set out by the Vancouver Food Strategy. The project will include chatting with community members to explore perceptions and attitudes towards entomophagy and insecticulture in Vancouver. These practices are interesting as they may offer a healthy and sustainable alternative to agricultural meat products.
What is Entomophagy?
Pronunciation: /ˌɛntəˈmɒfədʒi/ ; The practice of eating insects, especially by people.
We’ll tell you more about that later. First, a little bit about us!
We are four UBC students in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. Our group consists of:
Maria Doll: A 3rd year student completing a dual degree in Food, Nutrition and Health and Education. Maria enjoys hiking and snowshoeing around Vancouver. She is interested in the topic of entomophagy because insects are a sustainable source of protein. She spends her Thursday evenings telling bug jokes at her local open mic night.
Ritz Moreno: A 3rd year student completing a degree in Food Science. Ritz enjoys researching current food trends. She has a keen interest in unconventional food sources and ingredients. She is positive and willing to learn, so she jumped at the opportunity to be part of the EntomophaGirls, even if it means overcoming minor arachnophobia.
Hannah Mazure: A 3rd year student completing a degree in Nutritional Sciences. Hannah enjoys incorporating uncommon foodstuffs into recipes, and thinks this project will be an opportunity for a new challenge! As someone who is a vegetarian and commonly iron deficient, Hannah has a particular interest in the nutritional aspects of consuming insects.
She also has a talent for bug illustrations:
Betsy Robertson: A 5th year student almost finished her degree in Applied Animal Biology. Betsy is interested in insect welfare so this project is particularly concerning for her. She spends her spare time volunteering at local farms and is passionate about helping others trying live a waste-free and sustainable lifestyle. As inspired by this project, Betsy is excited to incorporate insecticulture and entomophagy into her (and her roommates’) way of living.
PHOTO OF THE BUGGIE BABES:
Collective Goals and Interests (beyond bugs)
Our group brings a transdisciplinary perspective, with members in specialties ranging from Food, Nutrition and Health, Education, Applied Animal Biology, and Food Science. As a group we have a wide variety of interests, including sustainability, nutrition, education, agriculture, food science, research, and animal welfare. While we have many interests and strengths, we share a common goal of helping to build a more sustainable food system in Vancouver through innovation, connecting people, and connecting people with ideas. We hope to merge our various skills and interests while carrying out this project in order to make a positive impact on our city’s food system. We aim to do this by exploring whether there may be a general interest in entomophagy and insecticulture as sustainable meat alternatives.
We will be approaching this project in a professional manner, but with a meaningful understanding of each others perspectives and expectations. After our first class, we took the opportunity to have coffee and interact on a personal level in order to support and challenge each other throughout the duration of this project. We have determined it is essential to be open with communication, remain receptive to ideas and listen carefully to each other. Our group goals for this semester are to maintain accountability and remain respectful of each other and our community.
The idea for our project originated through a stirring discussion about the current urban agriculture movement in Vancouver, which includes hobby beekeeping and backyard hens (City of Vancouver 2013b; 2015). Entomophagy is a nutritious and environmentally sustainable source of iron and protein in comparison to other meat products such as beef (Bryce, 2014). In fact, before the development of livestock agriculture, nutrient dense insects were once a staple food in human diets all over the world (Bryce, 2014). Although 2 billion people continue to consume insects each day, the benefits of entomophagy are presently overshadowed by various cultural and social barriers in our Western society. To learn a little more about entomophagy, watch this informative video:
What we hope to gain from LFS 350…
We have three desires, the first of which is to gain insight into how Vancouver is currently developing a more sustainable food system. Secondly, we would like to improve the utilization of our collective knowledge to complement the experiences and motivations of food system stakeholders and community members in Vancouver. In addition to developing our communication and collaboration skills, this will help us to create connections within our food system and promote movements toward sustainability. Lastly, we are interested in learning about the different ways to prepare insects in meals, as well as the practice of farming insects. One of our group members is actually planning to implement this practice in her home!
Project Objectives & Potential Contribution
Our objective is to learn about the attitudes and perceptions of Vancouver community members in regards to consuming insects and growing insects at home.
One might expect many citizens of Vancouver to welcome the idea of bugs as a sustainable food source based on the numerous movements towards sustainable urban agriculture already implemented in Vancouver (e.g. City of Vancouver, 2013a). However, there may be lingering resistance to entomophagy in Western culture because of the “ick” factor. In an effort to gauge the current sentiment on the acceptance of entomophagy and insecticulture, we plan to interview Vancouver community members to understand their opinions and feelings about these practices and where they might ‘draw the line’, if at all.
Rather than simply implementing insecticulture, our project is following Ernesto Sirolli’s (2012) ‘listening’ approach to assess the interest in and motivation for this practice in the community. With our project, the importance of this strategy is especially evident because of the potential for a strong rejection of the practice as a whole.
A positive response from these interviews may suggest a potential area for future growth within Vancouver’s food system. For example, Metro Vancouver could publish a guide to raising insects for food, as they have for chickens and bees (City of Vancouver 2013b; 2015). Two of the main goals of the Vancouver Food Strategy are to “support and enable all forms of urban agriculture” and to “improve access to healthy, local, and affordable food for all” (City of Vancouver 2013c). Therefore the urban farming of insects as a sustainable source of protein and iron aligns well with the goals of the Vancouver Food Strategy. Our project may be the cornerstone for future research and development in entomophagy and insecticulture in Vancouver.
We’ve been taught through previous education to face challenges from a ‘needs-based’ approach, addressing deficiencies rather than highlighting existing community assets. In our classrooms we were taught about the government’s role to appropriately allocate funds to community “problem-areas” rather than a more positively-focused alternative, which encourages focusing on the informal relationships and harnessing existing skills of community members.
A member of our group worked for the Mustard Food Bank and noticed the food bank was more likely to receive donations when homelessness, food insecurity, and unemployment were discussed with donors rather than the personal support systems the members of the community had developed. Our society tends to focus on the lack of safety or unemployment rates of communities, which consequently causes us to ignore strengths.
Therefore, we appreciate the alternative process suggested by Mathie and Cunningham (2003) in their Asset-Based Community Development strategy and by Ernesto Sirolli (2012) in his ‘listening‘ approach. Our biggest obstacle is overcoming this needs-based mindset and instead thinking about how we can contribute to and build upon the aspects of our community that are already successful. Our project is an opportunity to explore a possible extension to current urban agriculture in Vancouver, rather than targeting a flaw in our local system.
While this process, or way of thinking, has been slightly challenging as it goes against the grain of our education, we greatly appreciate the encouragement to take a more positive approach to developing sustainable food systems. So far, we have enjoyed the experience and are very excited to see how this project develops throughout this semester and beyond.
Now finally, the punchline you’ve been waiting for!…
Q: What do frogs order when they go to a restaurant?
A: French flies!
Bryce, E. (2014). Should we eat bugs? – Emma Bryce [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDqXwUS402I
City of Vancouver. (2013a). Join a community garden in your neighbourhood. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/community-gardens.aspx
City of Vancouver. (2013b). Learn the rules for backyard chickens. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/backyard-chickens.aspx
City of Vancouver. (2013c). What feeds us: Vancouver Food Strategy. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/vancouver-food-strategy-final.PDF
City of Vancouver. (2015). Keeping bees on your property. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/beekeeping.aspx
Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003). From clients to citizens: Asset-based community development as a strategy for community-driven development. Development in Practice, 13, 474-486.
Sirolli, E. (2012). Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chXsLtHqfdM