Hello everyone 🙂 I’ve been researching the use of edible insects as an alternative protein sources to combat global warming and food insecurity, and I’ve hosted five insect tastings so far along with the Insect Eating Club. I have experience raising crickets, mealworms and black soldier flies, as well as making palatable recipes with said insects. I hope to find optimal diets to raise edible insects on that both makes them safe to eat and environmentally friendly. I can’t wait to continue my message of environmental sustainability with food science and entomophagy (insect eating) for college and beyond!
Currently, I’m doing research on the relationship between entomophagy and food safety through black soldier flies and mealworms! There have been five tastings that my club, the Insect Eating Club, has conducted, however it’s imperative that the insects being fed to the public are safe to consume. So I’ve been raising Black Soldier Fly Larvae and Yellow Mealworms on a variety of diets like grains, food waste, and even styrofoam! I’ve also been collaborating with Rutgers University to analyze the bacteria in these insects, to find if there are any non food-grade pathogens present, which would make the insects unsafe to eat. The Black Soldier Flies are currently being analyzed by the Food Safety and Microbiology Lab, and I hope that the findings support my hypothesis and previous studies that show these insects to have gotten rid of any unsafe amount of pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella. I also just finished research on the public opinion of cicadas, which shows that for future insect tastings, cooking the insects in a way that masks their flavor would be the best way to introduce the practice of entomophagy to Princeton.
Previous Research Contributions: Awards, Publications and Presentations
Conrad Challenge: Conrad Innovator (December 2020) As Captain of Team Black Soldier Fly Bioreactor, I led my team through creation of a “bioreactor” made from recycled materials. This bioreactor, intended for medium to low income areas, used black soldier flies and their larvae to create a food source and a method of fertilizing soil with their waste. Our team focused on solving the problems of slash and burn agriculture in Panama, and our design evolved after we refined many existing designs. Our product is relatively cheap, easy to put together, and can be produced at a large scale to help out rural communities that need a new source of income and food for their populations.
Presentation at Princeton Youth Climate Week (March 2021) The Insect Eating Club presented at the Princeton HS Youth Climate Week via Zoom, and shared information on the environmental and nutritional benefits of insects. We also touched upon why Western society is so hesitant to adopt the practice, and ways that insects can be eased into our daily diets.
Publication with Dr. Schaffner, PhD, Rutgers University (2021) I co-wrote the article “Insects: The Future of Food and Feed” which was published in Rutgers Visions Magazine: Family and Community Health Sciences, Volume 33 Issue 2.
Member of Dr. Schaffner’s Food Safety and Microbiology Lab, Rutgers (2021) I attend weekly meetings with undergraduate and graduate students of the Food Science Department. This past summer, I began a research project in partnership with the lab focused on how to best prepare insects such as crickets and black soldier flies for human consumption. I have been examining the pathogens found on these insects and how well they transfer in a variety of conditions such as heat and ventilation when cooking.
Insect Tastings and Media Coverage (2020-2021) I have held five tastings thus far for the Insect Eating Club and the general public, where people had the option to eat insects such as crickets, mealworms, silkworms and cicadas. They were prepared in many various ways, like cricket carrot cake, cicada tacos, cicada stew and fried mealworms.
Presented Virtually at Entomology 2021 (October 2021) In my presentation, I analyzed the thousands of comments my cicada tasting event received on Facebook, and determined that the majority of them were negative, with a surprising amount of xenophobia and regional bias. This highlights the difficulties for integrating edible insects into Western society as a whole, and to fix this in the future, more media coverage and research should be done on the necessity for insects for the future of the world.