Could Crickets Help End Hunger?
Fried crickets for sale at Chiang Mai Night Bazaar in Thailand, by flickr user avlxyz.
By Nina Keehan
How would you feel about eating a cricket muffin? Cricket bread? A cricket tortilla? Well a team of students from McGill University are vying for a chance to make cricket-infused food a worldwide sensation.
McGill University is one of five finalists in this year’s prestigious Hult Prize competition, which gives MBA students a chance to solve some of the world’s greatest problems. This year, teams are tackling the global food crisis. The competition works something like this: groups of 4-5 students from universities across the globe develop social enterprises that can successfully and substantially reduce hunger. The students focus on urban slums, where over 200 million people worldwide are food insecure. Whichever team has the best idea will receive $1 million to actually make it happen.
The facts about global hunger are sobering. Nearly 1 billion people are hungry or suffer from malnutrition and every five seconds a child dies from hunger-related causes. That’s partially because extremely poor families spend more than 70 percent of their income on food, trapping them in a cycle of hunger, poverty, and illness.
If you're squeamish about the idea of buttering up a piece of cricket-infused bread, know that you're in the global minority. The UN Food Standards Authority states that about 2.5 billion people around the world already incorporate insects regularly into their diets, with grasshoppers being one of the most popular. They are low-fat, high-protein, high in omega-3, and much easier to mass produce than other sources of protein.
The McGill team’s basic idea is to produce crickets on an industrial scale, starting with urban dwellers who would raise them, eat them, and sell them to the local market. Families would be provided with a light, collapsible metal cylinder that attracts and traps crickets--up to 11 pounds in two months. Whatever was left after local sales and consumption could to be made into cricket flour that would then be subtly added to the local diet staple, whether that be corn, rice, or wheat.
The idea of consuming bugs for protein has grown in popularity over recent years. In fact, in 2011 the EU promised up to €1.5m in funding for research on producing “purified or partially purified insect protein,” and other alternative protein sources to help meet the Millennium Development Goals, eradicate famine, and improve environmental sustainability.
So get ready, because the key to solving hunger might just include tapping this market. One of the McGill students, Zev Thompson, told the Examiner.com, "Having now eaten them [crickets], it [now] seems normal...I wonder if crickets today are what sushi was 20 or 30 years ago--a weird exotic thing that breaks into the mainstream."
Only time will tell.
Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.
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