Entomophagy — what does that mean? For one Ladysmith Secondary School (LSS) graduate, it means world travel, a lot of hard work and realizing a dream.
Afton Halloran grew up 10 kilometres outside of Ladysmith, and graduated from LSS in 2005.
She says she always had an idea of what she wanted to be but did not know exactly which path it would take her down. When she left high school, she was interested in sustainable diets with low environmental impacts, and she toyed with the possibility of becoming a dietitian.
When you think of a sustainable diet, do you think of consuming insects? That is exactly what entomophagy is, the consumption of insects as food, and that is exactly what Halloran has become involved in since her graduation.
“Currently, I’m a consultant for the Edible Insects Programme of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,” she said.
However, that definitely was not the first stop in her journey, which has seen her travel the world while completing her education.
After graduation, Halloran moved to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia and obtained her Bachelor of Science.
“From there [UBC], I worked in Tanzania, and after, that I started my master’s degree in Copenhagen, at the University of British Columbia,” she said.
Tanzania and Copenhagen were only the beginning of Halloran’s very exciting academic and professional journey.
Thanks to her studies, she has been able to live, work and research in many different countries. She has been lucky enough to conduct research in Ghana, Uganda, Malaysia and Tanzania. She has also attended universities in Denmark and Norway.
It was on one of these trips that Halloran discovered the world of edible insects.
“When I was living and researching in Uganda, I got to eat some delicious grasshoppers and ants,” she said. “They are considered a delicacy in Uganda and can fetch high prices. This was my first exposure to edible insects, and I was sold!”
Halloran and the group she works with at the UN have just released a book called Edible Insects: Future Prospect for Food and Feed Security, “which has been really exciting,” she says.
The book is receiving a lot of positive attention. This has Halloran very busy speaking with media from all over the world and addressing questions from around the globe about how to get involved with the world of edible insects.
Halloran’s next goal is to begin her PhD. She is looking forward to continuing her research, which she hopes will contribute to solving the pressing global issues of our time.
Halloran believes many people in Ladysmith would be curious to try entomophagy. She says eating insects is more about overcoming psychological barriers than consuming the insects.
“If you think of it this way, a lot of people eat shrimp … a grasshopper, for example, is basically a ‘shrimp of the sky,’” she said. “I don’t think we should impose something like this on people’s diets. But, that being said, two billion people who eat insects as a part of their diet can’t be wrong.”
Halloran practises what she preaches.
Her favourite insect dish is grasshopper with chili, salt and lime, a common dish in Oaxaca, Mexico.