Children open to seeing insect-based meals on school dinner menu, study suggests
Children would consider eating insects as part of their school dinners, a study has found.
Academics examined young people’s attitudes to eating creepy crawlies – known as entomophagy – and sustainability.
They carried out tasting sessions with nearly 200 primary and secondary schoolchildren in Wales using products made from insect and plant protein mince.
At three schools students tasted VEXo Bolognese and burgers, which are made by Welsh company Bug Farm Foods.
The researchers said the children liked the meals and were open to the idea of eating it on a regular basis.
The VEXo Bolognese was popular with all the children taking part in the study who responded positively to the taste.
When the Bolognese was placed temporarily on the school menu, 60% of children eating hot meals chose the VEXo option – favouring it over other traditional meals.
Study lead Dr Verity Jones, from UWE Bristol, said: “This is the first time that a study like this has focused on young people and the first time that practical tastings with edible insects have been conducted.
“In what might be a surprise to many parents, the reception from children was overwhelmingly positive.”
The study found the presentation of the insect-based foods was critical in garnering a positive response.
The insect protein was presented as familiar food types, such as Bolognese and burgers, which made children more open to trying it.
Alongside tastings, schoolchildren learned more about food sustainability and the health benefits of eating insects.
Dr Jones said: “There is increasing pressure to feed the world’s growing populations a diet which is both healthy and sustainable for the planet.
“Introducing insects into our diets could be part of the solution but, to do that, we have to ensure that the younger generations are on board.
“The results of this study show that young people are open to the idea of eating insects and therefore potentially other novel, sustainable foods.
“Like many adults, they too want to make informed food choices that are good for their health and the environment.”
There are plans to roll out VEXo menu options across schools in Wales.
Pembrokeshire County Council will be offering VEXo Bolognese on school lunch menus for the Royal Entomological Society’s National Insect Week in June, with plans for the dish to be added to the regular menu later in the year.
The study, Edible insects: Applying Bakhtin’s carnivalesque to understand how education practices can help transform young people’s eating habits, is published in the Children’s Geographies Journal.