The insects offer an alternative source of protein for school kids (Picture: Getty Images / iStockphoto)

Schoolchildren are used to eating hot dinners such as fish and chips, spaghetti bolognese and lasagne.

But children at four primary schools in Wales are set to be offered insects to eat such as crickets, grasshoppers, silkworms, locusts and mealworms in a bid to introduce some ‘alternative protein’.

This will open up children and adults’ eyes to the benefits of edible insects and give clues as to how to best educate children about the environment.

A study in the Journal of Cleaner Production found insect farms emit 75% less carbon than poultry farms.

As people in the UK look towards more sustainable diets, doubters of an insect-based diet will be pleased to know edible bugs are rich in protein, antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients.

The project starts this week and aims to better understand children’s understanding of ‘alternative proteins’. It will use surveys, workshops, interviews and focus groups to explore this.

Researchers have teamed up with teachers and hope that the four- to 11-year-olds will be willing to try out some of the more exotic foods.

Across Europe, eating alternative sources of protein like insects is already the norm.

Insect diets are set to get more popular in the future (Picture: Getty Images / iStockphoto)

The diet is already popular across many countries in Europe (Picture: Getty Images / iStockphoto)

A 2020 study by the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) found 9 million European consumers had eaten insects in 2019, with this expected to increase to 390 million by 2030.

‘We want the children to think about alternative proteins as real things for now, rather than just as foods for the future, so trying some of these foods is central to the research,’ said Christopher Bear, of Cardiff University.

‘Although edible insects are – for now – not sold widely in the UK, they form part of the diet of around 2 billion people worldwide.

‘Much of this is in parts of the world where they are part of long-standing culinary traditions.

‘And they are increasingly popular elsewhere.’

Researchers and teachers will work together to encourage children to eat the insects (Picture: Getty Images)

The diet is different to the usual school dinners on offer (Picture: Getty Images / iStockphoto)

Verity Jones, of the University of West of England in Bristol is behind the study and said: ‘Everyone eats insects everyday – there’s over 30 parts of bugs in every 100g of chocolate … bread, fruit juices, hops … you name it, you’re eating insects,’ she said.

‘All research, for adults and children, indicates whole insects are off-putting, but ground-up insects within foods are very acceptable. 

‘No one likes the idea of having a crunchy bit of wing or antenna between their teeth. 

‘But, in fact, children were more likely to choose food containing edible insects over usual meat products on a matter of sustainable credentials if given the option.

‘My research indicates, as with adults, that boys are more likely to be up for trying the new foods first – but overall both boys and girls seem to be willing to have a go in equal measure.’

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Carl Evans, headteacher of Roch Community Primary School in Pembrokeshire, which is taking part in the project, said: ‘There is an important connection between our local community, food production and wider global issues surrounding sustainable development.

‘These issues are important to children, but also difficult to make sense of and can often be confusing for them.

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