Apart from the volunteer comments, this piece was written by Caroline Wood and collated by Danae Dodge
The Sheffield Food Festival is where it all began for BSA Sheffield – our first ever outreach event was ‘The Secret Life of Tomatoes’, which took place at the 2017 Food Festival. Food is a language that everyone understands, so it is an excellent medium to demonstrate how important science is for modern society. With the Sheffield Food Festival such an established community event that attracts thousands, it is also a brilliant opportunity for us to engage a range of new audiences with our work.
So this year on Saturday 26th May at the Winter Gardens, we were keen to introduce the science behind some of the emerging food trends that many may have seen in the headlines, including edible insects, hydroponic plants and lab-grown meat. Given the enormous challenge we will have to feed the growing population, it is vital that the public understand the different options available so they can make informed decisions about their future diets.
We divided our activity stand into different areas, each dedicated to one of these themes and led by BSA Sheffield volunteers who had a real passion for their subject:
Shauni McGregor on ‘What Happens If Bees Go Extinct?’
“Commercial honey bee populations in the UK are estimated to have fallen by 25% within the past thirty years so we decided to highlight the importance of bees and other pollinators in producing our food. We presented our visitors with a shopping basket filled with fruit, vegetables and even some household items and asked them to sort the basket into products that required bees and those that didn’t. By the end of the activity only two items were left that didn’t need bees making for a very sorry looking shopping basket! Fortunately, we had some wildflower seeds kindly donated by Grow Wild UK for our visitors to take home to plant in their garden or in a window box providing pollinators with a vital source of food. A lot of our visitors were surprised by how much of our food requires bee pollination and it is an issue that clearly resonates with people: I had a lot of interesting conversations about why bee populations are struggling and what people are doing in their own gardens to help bees the best they can.”
Eleanor Marshall on ‘Lab Grown Meat’
“I was helping run the lab grown meat activity which involved children pretending to be scientists and making their own ‘lab grown meat’ using a petri dish, rubber band and pipette, which they really enjoyed. Many people had not heard about it and were interested to learn more and many said they would be open to trying it in the future (that was before they saw the price!)”
Caroline Wood on ‘Hydroponics’
“Unsustainable farming practices are destroying our soils at an alarming rate, so scientists are exploring new ways of growing crops. These include hydroponics (growing plants in liquid solutions) and aeroponics (where the roots are suspended in air and sprayed with a mist of nutrient solution). We wanted to show that this doesn’t always need technical equipment: in fact anyone can have a go at home! On the day, we gave out lots of do-it-yourself ‘hydroponics kits’ to grow a bean plant just using a plastic cup, a piece of filter paper and water. I also brought along some of the plants I grow hydroponically for my PhD studies – most people had never seen hydroponic cowpea before and were very curious!”
Penelope Hill on ‘Edible Insects’
“As part of BSA’s activities at the Food Festival, Danae and I built our stand around ‘Insects as a Food Source’. Our initial idea was to create Top Trumps cards, comparing traditional protein sources to different species of insects, so that the children and their parents could learn about the nutritional profiles of common edible insects. As we started to research more, we were amazed by how sustainable some insects were as a food source; for example, 1kg of crickets take only 1g of greenhouse gases to produce, compared to 2,850g of gases to produce 1kg of beef.
Once we were armed with the facts, we knew the proof would be in the pudding. We were lucky to have the opportunity to work with Eat Grub, who offer a brilliant range of edible insects, including Peri Peri and BBQ roasted crickets. I also used some cricket protein powder to make biscuits, which was a new challenge for my baking skills. They turned out to be very popular with one child telling us they were ‘better than normal biscuits’! The samples worked as a great way to intrigue curious kids and parents, and engage them in conversations about sustainable foods and their opinions on edible insects. We even had some particularly brave kids coming back for seconds and thirds!
The children really enjoyed running around the Winter Gardens to find the hidden Top Trumps cards, so that they could complete their insect quiz. We also had some very insightful conversations with parents and elderly people about sustainability, climate change, food privilege and even generational shifts in attitude. Overall, it was a successful day, and I feel we helped to plant a few seeds of curiosity and spread the word about the insect revolution!”
You can view our gallery of photographs from the event on the BSA Sheffield Facebook Page here. With special thanks to Grow Wild, for providing free packs of native wildflowers to give away as part of our ‘What would we do without bees?’ stand, and Eat Grub, for providing discounted materials for our edible insects activity.