San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Creepy, crawly and crunchy — SDSU students sample edible insects by Chef Yoon at Bug Banquet

Chef Yoon’s tasting spread acceptance and awareness about edible insect agriculture
Student Nutrition Organization members Sophi Jacanin and Stacey Lehner prepare trays of cricket hummus and mealworm chips
Renee Roldan
Student Nutrition Organization members Sophi Jacanin and Stacey Lehner prepare trays of cricket hummus and mealworm chips

Cricket cookies and mealworm crackers are not the sort of food one would expect to see served in a campus cafeteria, but San Diego State University students had the opportunity to sample edible insect dishes on Feb. 23. 

In association with professor Changqi Liu and the Student Nutrition Organization (SNO), Joseph Yoon, a chef and edible insect ambassador, prepared a Bug Banquet. This tasting event showcased edible insect dishes, along with information about the future of insect cuisine. 

Chef Yoon’s tasting menu included insect-based dishes, including cricket chili tacos, cricket and chicatana ant tteokbokki and cricket caramel honey popcorn. All the insects served in this event were farmed for consumption. 

At the event, Yoon spoke about his work in increasing acceptance of edible insects and speaking on global food systems at different events. 

Yoon also touched on his plans for edible insect activism in the future, such as producing an edible insect cookbook and an organized advertising campaign that hopes to change public perceptions around eating insects.

Giselle Ford, a first-year student, had never eaten insects prior to this event but was interested in trying them for the first time. Ford tried a cricket fruit smoothie with ant and guacamole chips.

“It’s really good, and it’s pretty. I like the way it (is plated),” Ford said. “I would (eat insects) again.”

This event came to SDSU as part of Liu’s research. Lui is a food science researcher with part of his research specializing in edible insects and the nutritional values, flavor profiles and potential allergens relating to edible insects. He also researches consumer acceptance of edible insects. 

“We did a survey and we found that the willingness level to eat insects is not that great in the U.S.,” Liu said. “We identified that unfamiliarity with the products — and also the disgust factor — are the main barriers. So that’s why we are trying to come up with some interventions to help people overcome that kind of aversion towards the insects.”

According to Liu, a Bug Banquet event was also held at SDSU in 2019, where students were also able to sample edible insect dishes and, afterward, complete a survey about their perceptions regarding consuming insects. 

“We found that with this kind of exposure, having people try eating insects helped improve their willingness to consume insects,” Liu said. “(With) more exposure, you become more familiar with the product, especially if — after you try it — you find that it actually tastes very good, and it eases the disgust factor.” 

As Yoon presented videos relating to his work with edible insects, SNO volunteers plated and served edible insect cuisine to attending students. 

According to Yohana Rios-Perduzco, a fourth-year student and SNO catering manager, the organization’s involvement with this event stemmed from an invitation to participate by Liu’s department. 

“I gathered the volunteers to (work) on the cooking, prepping days before and serving,” Rios-Perduzco said. “(The volunteers) were amazing and there were so many people… I think it was a great opportunity because we had more students involved than we expected. It was amazing the interest that the students had.” 

SNO supports events, such as the Bug Banquet as part of their goal to spread information about nutrition, including nutrition concepts and ideas that are “appropriately accessible and vetted,” according to Stacey Lehner, a third-year student and SNO member.

During this event, Yoon spoke about the benefits of edible insects for both nutrition and environmental impacts. 

“(Edible insects) can really make an impact in a lot of areas, (working) alongside existing agricultural systems,” Yoon said. “We are not suggesting that edible insects or insect agriculture is a silver-bullet solution to save the world or to end hunger, but it can be among the portfolio of solutions with all the potential of edible insects and insect agriculture.” 

Yoon also hopes to see increased accessibility of edible insects, and their incorporation into existing cuisines. 

In his presentation, Yoon talked about “taking classic dishes and bug-ifying (them)” as a way to make edible insects more accessible to the public. He added that consumer demand can help increase the availability of edible insects. 

“I realize we have this opportunity to really be able to engage people in really meaningful ways and fun ways, and it’s delicious… but we can (also) think about tackling really big problems,” Yoon said. “It’s been really awesome to come back to San Diego State and be a part of this for another year.”