‘Broc Obama’ gets broccoli message right

07/12/2013 11:04:00 AM
Chuck Robinson

Chuck Robinson, Assistant Copy ChiefChuck Robinson, Assistant Copy ChiefMaybe the president’s name should be spelled Broc Obama.

The president dropped in on a luncheon that celebrated 54 kids who won first lady Michelle Obama’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge recipe contest.

One of the winning recipes, submitted by a 10-year-old Alabama child, was kale, broccoli, chicken and apple salad, which sounds pretty good as well as healthful. A South Carolina kid’s “Bring It On Brussels Sprouts Wrap” also sounds good.

Answering a question from a student reporter, President Obama said his favorite food is broccoli.

It is nice to have a president on the side of encouraging kids to eat more vegetables.

In his impromptu remarks, he mentioned not liking poorly prepared vegetables as a kid. He congratulated the young cooks on learning that lesson early and discovering how to properly prepare healthful foods.

“I suspect you’re setting a good example for your parents,” the president said.

Of course, the innocuous remark met with some snide responses from the media.

The Washington Post noted the president is often photographed eating hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and other less healthy fare.

Yahoo News responded to President Obama’s comment with a slideshow of him ingesting other foods, beer principally.

Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, tweeted “What kind of POTUS says his fav food is Broccoli? Same one who in 2008 complained about the price of arugula at Whole Foods.”

That comment gained traction on Slate.com and other places.

Fleisher served the son of the president who famously ranted in 1990 “I do not like broccoli … And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”

What a bunch of silly poofs.

Even if President Obama answered a kid’s question at a luncheon celebrating eating healthfully with a tiny white lie — I am saying if — give him credit for staying on message.

After all, his wife did tell Yahoo News in February that the Obamas are a “broccoli household.”

And the first couple have been united and constant in promoting fresh vegetable and fruit consumption.

Subtly implying to kids that a good way of seeming more grown up is to eat food adults prefer seems like a good tactic to me.

The president also stays on message when he says he doesn’t smoke, even though some report he sneaks a cigarette every now and again.

Ours is also a broccoli household. We get a large pillow of broccoli florets from Costco every week. My lunchtime broccoli, peanut butter and sriracha sauce sandwiches have caused several co-workers to roll their eyes, but I like them.

It is true I am enamored of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and on Friday nights I look forward to a cold beer. However, broccoli is our mainstay. We bake it, stir-fry it, make salads with it, put it in sandwiches — this vegetable is versatile. It is the best scoop for dips of anything found on a vegetable tray.

It is strange how broccoli has become part of our political lexicon.

Last year it became shorthand for government interference in private decision making when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued that making everybody buy health insurance was like requiring everyone to buy broccoli.

That led to broccoli getting mentioned a dozen times in the court decision this spring upholding Obamacare.

Despite the politically charged negativity toward broccoli, consumption has grown considerably in the past couple of decades.

I wonder if this is a case of any PR is good PR.

In April 2012, the Ag Marketing Resource Center at Iowa State University reported fresh broccoli consumption rose from 1.4 pounds per person in 1980 to 5.6 pounds per person in 2010.

Processed broccoli consumption grew much less, from 1.5 pounds per person in 1980 to 2.5 pounds in 2010.

An increase in the number of salad bars over those two decades may have been a factor in the growth of fresh broccoli consumption, according to the report.

Sure, that might be a factor. Other factors include innovative products like Mann Packing’s broccoli slaw, improvements in packaging technology and improved broccoli cultivars, such as Sakata Seed Corp.’s new Centennial variety, which has heavy heads and small beads and can be grown year-round in cool, coastal areas.

Of course, the nutritional benefits from eating broccoli sell a lot of us on eating more of it. One cup of chopped, steamed broccoli packs 137% of a person’s daily vitamin C requirement, plus 5 grams of fiber, a healthy dose of vitamin A, calcium, iron and protein. The cup has just 51 calories and one gram of fat.

Smirk if you will at the president’s comment about broccoli being his favorite food but don’t get lost in the snide remarks and negativity.

Anything you can do to get kids to eat more of it, and all the rest of us too, is good for us.

crobinson@thepacker.com

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