A Pearson College student’s innovative approach to enhancing refugees’ nutrition is much more than food for thought.
Natasha Grimard, an 18-year-old Grade 12 student at the Metchosin campus, won a silver medal in May at the 55th Canada Wide Science Festival at McGill University.
She is one of eight recipients of a $500 Ernest C. Manning Innovation Achievement Award for her project. Grimard, investigated the production of a cost-effective, culturally and nutritionally acceptable solution for enhancing the nutrition of refugees in large-population settlements who are at risk of health complications due to low nutrition in their rations.
Grimard’s recipe for what she calls an entomonoodle came about through a series of trials where she created what’s best described as a termite jerky consisting of ground up termites, black soldier fly larvae and crickets in a range of nutritional values.
Combining the different pastes with an enzyme caused the makeup of the pastes to change into a substance with a jerky-like consistency, which significantly increased the product’s shelf life. Her assessments of trials concluded that her entomonoodle could provide an additional source of nutrition in large refugee encampments.
Grimard, who grew up in the village of Chelsea near Ottawa, spent three years on the project. She is living in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where her mother has worked for Global Affairs Canada since 2014, and will return to Pearson next school year. She plans to go to university after she completes her time at Pearson College.
“McGill University is currently the Canadian hub for entomaphagy innovation, so that’s my most likely destination, but I am still exploring my options,” she said.
Grimard said winning the silver medal and the Manning Innovation award is validation that will motivate her to push her innovative approaches even further.
“One of the things I’ve learned so far is that a few seventh graders, two ambulance attendants, two or three people passing by and a 16 year old can collect an impressive quantity of termites in an hour,” she said. “I am determined to keep working on this until entomophagy is used in refugee camps. Having my work formally recognized gives me more legitimacy in the field. It can be difficult to be taken seriously by specialists as a teenaged researcher, so this a wonderful thumbs up.”
The list of people she would like to thank is too long but would include everyone in the fields of nutrition, development specialization and entomophagy.
“I do want to thank my teachers, close friends and family members,” she added.
Grimard said one of the most important lessons she learned is that humans are both “devastatingly sad and incredibly beautiful creatures, and the vast majority have a deep-rooted desire to help each other.”
She also found that feeding basil to crickets made them taste like basil, and that termites are spicy while crickets are nutty. “The culinary possibilities for insects keeps surprising me,” she said.
For the past 24 years, the Canada Wide Science Festival has encouraged and celebrated outstanding young Canadians, said Jennifer Diakiw, president of the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation said.
“The calibre and ingenuity of Natasha’s projects proves age is no barrier to innovation,” Diakiw said in a release.