We had an interesting communication, in fact 57 of them, from 5th graders in Judy Latonie’s reading classes at Kelly Lane School in Granby, CT. Her letter, dated April 6, 2000 will explain what was going on:
Dear Dr. DeFoliart:
I am the reading consultant at the Kelly Lane Intermediate School in Granby, Connecticut. I recently did a reading skills lesson with the fifth graders and we read the article “Bug Off’ from the Almanac of the Gross, Disgusting and Totally Repulsive: A Compendium of Fulsome Facts by Eric Elfman. The article explained your belief that insects are a nutritious source of food that may help alleviate food shortages caused by overpopulation. The children have written notes to you expressing their agreement or disagreement with your position and many have asked for a copy of The Food Insects Newsletter.
They would be delighted if you would respond collectively to their letters and we would all love to see a copy of The Food Insects Newsletter. Your response would make this authentic literacy experience even more valuable.
Thank you for your time!
I responded to the above on April 21:
Dear Ms. Latonie and students:
I want to thank you for the interesting letters which you sent. In response, enclosed are three reprints of articles on insects as food and five back issues of The Food Insects Newsletter. These should help give some additional background on the subject. Also, I want to tell you I have recently started a web site at www.food-insects.com which includes, among other things, a reprinting of the first five volumes (14 issues) of the Newsletter. You will find them under a section called “A place to browse.” I hope you find some interesting browsing there!
I found your letters very interesting. You had obviously given some thought to this matter, which is important not only for the present but potentially very important for the future, both nutritionally and ecologically. . . . [I then suggested that with their permission, I would print several of their letters at the web site, informed them that I was no longer editor of the Newsletter and how they could get in touch with Dr. Florence Dunkel, the current editor].
I heard again from Ms. Latonie, dated May 24:
Thank you for your kind response to my reading students. They were very pleased to hear from you and they enjoyed looking at the information that you sent. Enclosed is another set of letters that I promised another fifth grade class I would send to you.
The students were thrilled to hear about your new web site. You certainly have my permission to print my letter and the students would love to see their (first) names with their letters as well.
Thank you again for your kindness in responding to my students. Your efforts made this a very successful authentic literacy activity.
There were 40 letters from the first group of students. I attempted to divide them into three categories: 1) Those who agreed that edible insects might help feed the world, 2) Those who disagreed for whatever reason, and 3) Those who could see arguments on both sides of the question. Those in the first category totaled 23 students, in the second category 11 students, and in the third category 6 students. As almost all of the letters started by saying something like “I recently read an article explaining your belief that eating insects may be the answer to the world food shortage caused by overpopulation,” and ended with a request for a copy of the Newsletter, I have deleted those portions of the letters to save repetition and space.
I think you’ll feel good when you read what these youngsters have to say. They not only think for themselves but they have a global world view and compassion for the poor and hungry that shows through, along with a concern for animals and our earth itself. Many mentioned that insects could probably help feed the poor who otherwise might starve.
Category 1: Agree (23 students)
Allison: I absolutely agree with you. I agree because if meat (not including insects) or vegetables get scarce, then us humans have another option. To conclude, I totally agree.
Ariel: I think you are a genius! That is a great idea! You should really try this in 3rd World countries. My friend just recently asked me if I would still like this if I had to eat bugs. I said I would still eat them. I have intentionally eaten bugs before.
Caitie: I think it is very strange that so many people think eating bugs is sick. There are bugs in almost everything you eat and drink!
Cecelia: I agree with you. Even though most people in the United States think bugs would be gross they’ve never tried them. I think they would taste good to me if I tried one.
Collin: I totally agree with your belief. I think if we start eating bugs because they are a good source of nutrients, we will not have to buy our food from other countries. Like McDonalds gets our beef from Argentina.
Derek: I think that eating bugs is fine. Some bugs have protein anyway. Some people don’t like them but if they never tried them how do they know.
Jeffrey M.: I think that’s a wonderful idea that could stop world hunger, and how the article explained it sounds yummy.
John: I agree with you. You don’t have to pay money for bugs. The needy or poor can’t afford good food. You can find them almost everywhere. They may not taste the best, but they are good for you. I am interested in your opinion. Thanks for sharing!
Joey: Personally, I have never tried bugs. I know that they are healthy, even though I don’t want to try them. I agree with you, and think that eating bugs will give a good source of protein to people who don’t have a lot of food. Thank you for all your time! “Bon Appetit!”
Kasey: When I was told to read this my first reaction was like gross. As I read on I found that I agreed with you. My class and I read an article in our Super Science. This is why I agree with you.
Krista: I really agree. I agree because many people all over the world are starving and have no food. So they have to eat bugs. Some people think it’s disgusting but they don’t understand that many people enjoy them. A lot of people have different taste buds, so people can have their own opinion. I would like to learn more about people all over the world eating bugs.
Leo: I think that is not a bad idea. I never tried bugs and since I never tried them they might taste good. Some people say its disgusting but if they never tried it how do they know.
Liam: I believe that will work because if we do have a food shortage it will feed us and help our health at the same time.
Lindsay: I think this is a good idea because it would be good for people that could not afford food and no one would go hungry. Even though it seems gross, I bet it would taste very good.
Michael C.: I agree with you. I do because if we feed everybody with it now we’ll get used to it and we will like it. It is nutritious because bugs are a good source of protein.
Michael S.: I agree. I agree because if the world did run out of food, insects would work – a perfectly good source.
Nicole: I think insects are a great source of vitamins.
Paige: I agree with you, but most people think that bugs are gross, but still it could be the solution. Not all people around the world eat bugs, but everywhere besides Europe and North America people eat them and use them as desserts for their main diet.
Sisbhan: I am totally with your belief. I think that is an excellent idea and belief because there are many people in this world who sometimes starve because there is not enough food. There are definitely enough bugs in the world to eat. Bugs are a great source of protein. It will help many people in this world.
Steffani: I agree with your belief. If people’s lives are in danger of starvation, then it’s a good idea.
Steven: I think it may be the answer to food shortages around the world. I think that some of the recipes at the Bug Off contest would be quite tasty, especially those honey ants.
Tommy C.: I think that it would be the answer to the world’s food supply because they don’t taste bad. It’s food there everywhere.
Vanessa: I wholeheartedly agree with you about eating insects. Of course, I find eating insects alive revolting, but insects are filled with vitamins and nutrients. One cricket has more nutrients in it than a box of cereal.
Category 2: Disagree (11 students)
Ashley: I think that it is dangerous to eat bugs. What if you eat a poisonous one?
Austin: I think that you are wrong because eating bugs might cause people to get a disease or get sick. This could happen if kids went outside, found bugs, and decided to eat them even if they are poisonous.
Jeff R.: I don’t think that would be a good idea because if there is any trace of poison in the bugs, or insects, they will go off the market because they could injure someone, or even kill them.
Jordanna: I think it’s a dangerous chance to take. If you eat a poisonous one you could get killed or something. I disagree with your opinion. I’m sorry!!!
Mike B.: I think this is a bad idea for people living in a civilized area because we have stores to go to and to buy civilized food to eat like meat and vegetables. On second thought it would be good for people who live in a poorer area so they have food to eat and do not starve. In conclusion I disagree with this idea because people can hunt for food and also buy it with the little money they have. P.S. I would never eat bugs myself because they are gross.
Nathaniel: I disagree so we won’t eat bugs because they are gross. I would not like an article because I don’t want to know about bugs.
Rachel: I think that this is disgusting and I think no one should eat bugs because what if you eat the one that has deadly sources in it! You can die if you eat that mosquito!
Robert: I think that eating insects will make insects become an endangered species, which will hurt farming. Many bugs help soil become richer and without rich soil we are unable to plant crops. This is what I think.
Sarah C.: I understand your reasons, but, in my honest opinion (no offense), I disagree. I disagree because people could get poisoned, and I don’t want to risk it. Even though I disagree, I understand your reasoning and would like to find out more. My opinion just might change!
Tricia: I disagree with you at the moment, because I do not know all the background facts. They might taste good, but can we die from eating them? Or do they have all the nutrients that we need in our bodies. Also, I don’t think a lot of people in North America are going to agree to eat them, because they are bugs.
Tyler: I think it isn’t a good idea because what if we ran out of bugs. Then we would have a problem again.
Category 3: Both agree and disagree (6 students)
Brian: I have two different views on eating bugs. 1. Bugs are good to eat. This is because of the food shortage you have mentioned. There are so many edible insects out there in the world. We may never run out of insects to eat. 2. Bugs are disgusting! Eating bugs may be like eating living cows! Just the thought of eating something’s heart and blood is truly disgusting. But if you think about it, eating dead crickets is like eating lobster. I do think this, but it may take a few years to put the plan in action. We people get kids, they can feed them their regular fruits and vegetables as well as bugs. This way they will not know what they really are eating and will not get grossed out. They will grow up liking bugs as if it were perfectly normal. Food would not become scarce.
Kathleen: I think that in some places eating bugs would be ok. But if younger children got this they might eat something deadly. Therefore, if you advertise this belief, make it like berries and ask kids to check with parents. If and only if I was starving would I eat insects.
Lisa: I agree because if we had no vegetables or needed food, what would we eat? Also because for the people who don’t have food in certain areas can have them. Also, bugs have good things in them, like protein. I also disagree because people in North America probably wouldn’t want to eat bugs. Also if some bugs are bad, they might kill someone.
Melissa: It [the article] had a wonderful description. At the end it said “The Newsletter includes insect recipes and helpful tips.” I don’t want to eat bugs but people around the world do, and I respect their opinion. I would like to receive that newsletter.
Sarah P.: I agree and disagree with your idea. I agree because it would help with the world’s food shortage problem, and more people would be able to eat a decent amount of food. I also disagree because if the bugs become too popular, the restaurants that serve bugs might pass the idea to other restaurants, and the people that go there might not go there anymore and it might bring the store to a closing.
Suzanne: I think that it is a good idea, but I don’t like the idea of eating bugs. I guess it is because I had a bad experience with bugs when I was young. I hope I don’t have to eat them. It is a good idea.
The second class was smaller and wrote only 17 letters. I tried to classify them by the same method used with the first group.
Category 1: Agree (11 students although several had reservations)
Amy: I think that is a great idea because you are helping people all around the world with their food problems. You see I think I would rather eat bugs than starve. You can’t eat ticks though, so if you eat spiders and all the good bugs all that would be left is ticks, gnats and mosquitoes and no one would want to eat them. I like your idea though. I think you’re smart.
Cassie: I think that bugs are very nutritional. The people in other countries may like eating bugs on a regular basis. But it may not be good to eat bugs on a daily basis because all of the good bugs would be taken, like spiders and worms. The bad bugs will be left, like mosquitoes and all types of bees. But anyways, even though I don’t like bugs, I have to totally agree with your answer!!
Courtney: I agree with eating bugs because they are nutritious and are good for you. At least it’s something to eat for people who don’t have anything. But if everyone starts to eat bugs you will start to mess with nature and something bad might happen. That’s just something to think about.
Kevan: I think that this is a good idea because bugs wouldn’t die out because they are ¾ of the population of the world. Also, I think it’s a good idea because some of the bugs are nutritious and taste very good.
Leighton: I think you are correct, and I agree with you. But I don’t think we should eat them on a regular basis because then all the good insects would become extinct. But your idea is a very good idea. I personally don’t like bugs so I would not do it.
Michael A.: I think that your idea is excellent! Though the thought of that is vexing I still think you are right. Three-fourths of the Animal Kingdom are insects. They won’t be so potentially harmful if more of us start eating them. They excel in nutrition and have protein. Did you know that in a can of tomatoes there “can” (get it?) be 3 insects! Delicious! I will try a few recipes at home. An interested student,
Michelle: I think that you are correct. If we run out of food that is our only choice. To be truthful I find bugs gross and I would never be able to eat bugs. Most of our favorite insects, for example tarantulas, someday might become extinct.
Shannon: I think that it is a pretty good idea. Some people already like eating bugs. I think you should cover them with chocolate or some other substance and have people try them who do not like bugs and then tell them what it was. The bugs have nutrition (protein), so they are good (only the ones that are not poisonous). I do not think I would like to try them though.
Tim: I agree with this idea. You should start by adding bugs to people’s favorite food. When people eat the food with bugs in it, they might start to like the bugs. They might tell their friends who might tell their friends and so on. This will make it spread a long way. It may not spread quickly. I like your theory.
Uchong (?): Eating bugs is cool. My favorites are ants. I like bugs but I am disgusted with roast cockroach. It’s like eating wood. Some of my favorites are ants and cooked worms, although the last I haven’t tried.
Uhachel: I think it is a good idea. If people in other countries eat bugs on a regular basis they might not be so bad. But we shouldn’t eat them on a regular basis, because then all the good bugs like spiders will be extinct and ticks and mosquitoes will be the only bugs left. Also, all the foods we like now will disappear. Starving people with no or hardly any food could be saved by eating bugs!
Category 2: Disagree (4 students)
Brieana: I do not like bugs so I don’t think that is a good idea. There might soon not be any bugs left. Some animals might be different or die. A lot of animals could become extinct. Then some plants might not live because of no bugs to nurture them. The humans could become extinct. It is like a chain, one thing dies another thing dies.
Cody: I think that you shouldn’t eat bugs because then there wouldn’t be any left. Then insects would become extinct.
Kassie: If we got so used to eating bugs, everything might have bugs. If everything has bugs in it we might wipe out bugs. Yes some are nutritious but some aren’t good to eat. If we wiped out bugs, other animals will start to eat other things or die out. If that changes, other things will start to happen. If some people eat some bugs, OK but not all bugs and not everyone.
Tom P.: I don’t think it is a good idea to eat bugs, because what if we ran out of bugs. All of the other foods won’t be made anymore, we would starve again, although that may not happen for a long time.
Category 3: Agree and disagree (2 students)
Katie: I personally find bugs gross, but I agree. Also, since ¾ of the world’s population are insects, they probably wouldn’t become endangered. What I am trying to say is I agree with your idea, but I personally would not be able to do it. Thanks for your time!
Meghan: I think it’s a good idea and a bad idea. I think it’s a good idea because we are running out of food in some countries. Also they might be good and nutritional. Also think it’s bad because the animals will die out. They will also be messing with mother nature. Therefore, I do not like this idea.
As the Editor of this site, there’s one point I think I would like to challenge a bit with some of the students. Although I think it’s changing for the better, it’s still not uncommon to hear people in our Western cultures say, “Insects are gross,” or, “I could never eat an insect.” I think that, frequently when they say that, they are thinking of the last cockroach they saw scurrying under the refrigerator. You might say cockroaches are gross. Certainly, they are very unsanitary in their habits, and nobody should ever eat one. But it’s a long stretch from that to say, “Insects are gross.” There are more than a million kinds of insects. What is gross about a butterfly? Or a dragonfly? Or a 17-year cicada? Or a firefly lighting up the night? Or a colorful beetle sitting on a leaf? Or a honeybee pollinating flowers? When you think about it, some insects are among the most beautiful creatures in the world. And insects perform many useful functions that make life better on this planet. I think when we say “Insects are gross,” we should try to be a little more specific. Which ones?