Act locally, reach globally: Marketing and promoting entomophagy begins at home

Wednesday, November 19, 2014: 4:50 PM
Portland Ballroom 253 (Oregon Convention Center)
Jerome F. Grant , Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
Renee Follum , Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
The overall objective of a recent International Conference titled ‘Insects to Feed the World’ was “ promote the use of insects as human food and as animal feed in assuring food security.” Most papers at this International Conference focused on harvesting and producing insects as food and feed, environmental issues, nutritional benefits, food safety and security, legislation and policy. It was apparent that much needed to be done globally to evaluate consumer attitudes and investigate ways to encourage more people to consider insects as part of their diet. To reach people globally, we each need to begin locally to offer entomologically-related gastronomical experiences to educate more people, change attitudes, and lay the local groundwork to enhance global efforts. One outreach activity that we have conducted for seven years is our Annual 'Buggy Buffet' ('Insect Smorgasbord'). This activity, held every fall at the University of Tennessee and open to the public, is a FREE insect-tasting event, where insects are cooked, served, and eaten to demonstrate their importance as food throughout the world. This event is sponsored by students in a Freshman Seminar course titled "A Bug's Life" and the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. Students gain valuable experience and knowledge during this activity, which is closely tied to the University’s “Ready for the World” initiative. During our 2013 ‘Buggy Buffet’, more than 300 people of all ages attended – many of them for the first time. A menu of insect-themed foods was developed and served.  This activity offers the opportunity for people to obtain first-hand experience with entomophagy, as well as discuss their experiences and the ‘insects as food’ concept with other participants.  The reaction and reception to our ‘Buggy Buffet’ has been extremely positive, with most first-time attendees surprised at the tastefulness, nutritiousness, and attractiveness of the insect-based meals. During the ‘Buggy Buffet’, opportunities are available to share entomophagy-related information with attendees. Various print (e.g., newspapers, magazines, etc.) and electronic (e.g., television, radio, etc.) media participate in the event and provide an overview of the activity to a broader audience. This outreach effort enhances public knowledge about the benefits and availability of insects as food. These types of public entomophagous activities frame insects as food in a positive manner on a local and regional scale. This paper describes the use of this model to enhance conversation and adoption of insects as food and feed worldwide, as well as emphasizes the importance of marketing and promoting to get people “to take the first bite.” Global awareness starts locally!