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Gates Foundation: The Story of Food

Walk into a high-end restaurant in Oaxaca, Mexico, and you might see chapulines, or grasshoppers, on the menu.

In Mexico and many countries around the world, it's not unusual to see a variety of bugs on the menu. Chapulines can be served casually, as bar snacks, or as street food, but they also make appearances in more upscale cuisine.

"Plenty of high-end restaurants, especially in Oaxaca, serve chapulines," said Myles Snider, an American cook who trained in Mexico City and has worked in restaurants in Tulum.


Chapulines, served casually as a snack. Image via iStock.

The attitude toward serving insects as food there differs from the United States.

"It's far more normalized here," said Snider. "I think people acknowledge that it's an insect, so they know foreigners might have reservations about eating it, but mostly people just realize that they're delicious."

In the U.S., most of us aren't used to encountering insects on the menu. Could — and should — they become part of our normal fare?

If you're like me, the mere mention of eating bugs triggers an instant reaction of disgust. But what is it about eating bugs, exactly, that we protest?

Disgust is a response that our body uses to prevent us from doing things that are bad for us. We've been taught since we were children that bugs are "yucky," so the idea putting them in our mouths is something that our body naturally rejects.

So it follows that in Western culture, entomophagy (as the pros call it) has developed a stigma associating it with poverty and poor living conditions, since we assume that cultures relying on what we consider "yucky" as a primary source of food must be doing so out of desperation. But that's not so!

The reality is that insects are a regular part of the human diet all over the world, not only in lower socioeconomic strata. They just haven’t really broken the boundary onto the palate of the American people — yet. Insects have a lot to offer, though, so it might be worth considering adding them to your grocery list this week!

See? Simba gets it. GIF via "The Lion King."

Here are 14 things edible insects have going for them, in the U.S. and abroad.

1. It's much easier to farm crickets than it is to farm cows. While livestock require land, feed, and equipment — all of which cost quite a bit — insects are scavengers and can basically subsist on their own.

Entomologist Yupa Hamboosong inspecting crickets raised on a farm in Vientiane, Laos. Photo by Hoang Dinh Ham/AFP/Getty Images.

2. Insect farms can be scaled to any size and can consist of as little as a breathable container, a damp towel, and food scraps or compost. That means that anyone can be an insect farmer, no matter their financial status.

3. Since geography isn't as much of a factor in insect farming, the growth potential for it as an industry isn't limited by location. A boom in insect farming could benefit cities as much as rural areas.

4. Since the food industry is often able to remain relatively stable in times of economic crisis, insect farming could bring increased job reliability to areas that aren't conducive to traditional farming.

5. Adding insects to the global diet could help solve world hunger. Insects are a nutrient-rich source of protein that can be grown locally in any environment — no other livestock product or crop provides the same benefits at such a low cost of maintenance.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

6. Insect farming is environmentally friendly. Since insects require so little to thrive, they place significantly less strain on finite global resources like grain, water, and real estate.

7. Meat production puts a huge strain on the global water shortage; one pound of beef requires nearly 2,000 gallons of water. By contrast, cricket farmers like Big Cricket Farms assert that producing a pound of crickets requires only a single gallon of water.

8. The water footprint of crickets is so small, in fact, that some places like Bitwater Farms are finding it can be met with rainwater alone.

9. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's major report on the topic, insects require less feed than any other animal protein, like cattle and pigs. (This fact has been contested specific to crickets, as a 2015 study found that the feed-to-meat ratio can vary greatly based on crickets' appetites.) Feed-to-meat conversion rates as reflected by the FAO estimate one pound of edible beef requires about nine pounds of feed, while one pound of edible cricket meat needs only about one and a half pounds of feed.

10. Greenhouse gas emissions are significantly lower in insects than in livestock. In a study of farmable insects (mealworms, crickets, locusts, cockroaches, and sun beetles) the insects were found to produce proportionally less carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ammonia than cattle or pigs. By contrast, producing beef has been noted by several scientists to be more harmful to the environment than driving a car. The World Bank calculated in 2010 that producing one kilogram of beef is equivalent to driving 49 miles in a car.

11. Certain types of crickets can have about as much or even up to twice as much protein content as beef, usually with much less fat.

12. Insects can be beneficial as food without ever making it to the human plate, too. Switching to insect-based animal feed to sustain livestock would cut down on the strain that grain production places on land and water resources.

Mealworms, like this little guy, can be easily and efficiently ground into an animal feed that's more enviro-friendly than grain. Herman/Flickr.

13. It's possible to incorporate insects into meals more subtly than simply chomping down on a cicada. Crickets can be ground into a protein flour that can be used in a variety of ways, including baking, as a dietary supplement, or to replace other protein sources like soy.

14. Insect protein has the interest of the start-up world. In 2014, cricket protein bar company Chapul scored a $50K business deal with investor Mark Cuban on "Shark Tank." Other investors are following suit — earlier this year, a similar energy bar company called Exo raised $4 million in its first round of funding.

Crobar is a protein bar made of cricket with cricket flour. Photo by Ton Koene/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP Images.

Insects may be on their way to conquering the world markets, but there's one drawback: Right now, insect protein is still cost-prohibitive for widespread use. Since the number of people farming crickets is still relatively few, the market price of a pound of harvested crickets is still pretty high: A pound costs manufacturers about $4-5. That price would need to fall by about half to make it competitive with livestock meats, soy, and other protein substitutes.

So does this mean our Instagram feeds will soon be full of delectable cricket and grub food creations?

It's possible! Insects aren’t the first food source that were once considered taboo in our country. Raw fish used to strike Americans as disgusting, too — until the sushi craze hit in the 1960s. The exact cause for its rise is unclear, but it’s likely that it had to do with the whirlwind of change that was overtaking a nation ripe for trying new things. The restaurant Kawafuku opened in 1964 and quickly became a Los Angeles hot spot. As celebrities began adopting the “healthy food” trend, sushi appeared in metropolitan cities and eventually made its way across the country.

Could the same thing happen with insects? There's nothing stopping it. Specialty restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago already serve dishes like fried grasshoppers, ant egg salads, and silkworms. And though you won't find them here at street stands or in bars (yet), you don't need to travel to Mexico to get your hands on a chapulín, either — many authentic Mexican restaurants serve the Oaxacan dish stateside.

So while insects still have a ways to go before they conquer the United States, they're definitely gaining traction. Anyone with an adventurous palate and a desire to be ahead of a trend would do well to head to their local entomophagist eatery and try them out. It could be only a matter of time before insects are the next must-have dining experience.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

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Prior to baby formula, breastfeeding was the norm, but that doesn't mean it always worked.

As if the past handful of years weren't challenging enough, the U.S. is currently dealing with a baby formula crisis.

Due to a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, labor shortages and inflation, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with formula demand and retailers are rationing supplies. As a result, families that rely on formula are scrambling to ensure that their babies get the food they need.

Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, "Why don't you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?"

That might seem logical, unless you understand how breastfeeding works and know a bit about infant mortality throughout human history.

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Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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Your cat knows you better than you think.

Cats are often seen as being aloof or standoffish, even with their owners. Of course, that differs based on who that cat lives with and their lifetime of experience with humans. But when compared to man’s best friend, cats usually seem less interested in those around them, regardless of species.

However, a new study out of Japan has found that cats may be paying more attention to their fellow felines and human friends than most people thought. In fact, they could be listening to human conversations.

"What we discovered is astonishing," Saho Takagi, a research fellow specializing in animal science at Azabu University in Kanagawa Prefecture, told The Asahi Shimbun. "I want people to know the truth. Felines do not appear to listen to people's conversations, but as a matter of fact, they do."

How do we know they’re listening? Because the study shows that household cats often know the names of their human and feline friends.

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There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

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A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

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