After all, our president has been photographed with burgers and barbeque all across the fruited plain, but to my knowledge he has never been snapped eating broccoli.
The context of the comment, as Reuters reports was a healthy recipe contest with kids at the White House on July 9. A journalist at the event asked President Obama what his favorite food was, and broccoli was the inexplicable response.
We can only assume President Obama gave the reply with a wry grin on his face, with a knowing glance directed to the First Lady.
President Obama’s proclaimed love of broccoli, feigned or not, puts him in stark relief to President George H.W. Bush, who rattled the industry’s cage when he declared his dislike for broccoli in 1990. The industry responded by shipping a truckload of broccoli to the White House, which was promplty distributed to D.C. food banks.
President Bush was an equal opportunity critic of venerable vegetables, taking on carrots in 1992. He also had harsh words for Belgian endive, if you can believe it.
From The Packer’s archives in March 1992:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Bush once again has raised the industry's ire following a recent executive assault on vegetables.
``We are in the midst of another attack by the administration on fresh fruits and vegetables -- this time carrots,'' said Alan Siger of Consumer's Produce Co. Inc. of Pittsburgh and chairman of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association.
Bush announced his dislike of carrots during a speech March 19 to the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association. Bush reportedly decided not to join the journalists for dinner after seeing that carrots were on the menu.
Although carrot consumption ranks high among Americans, Bush said he regards carrots as ``just like orange broccoli.''
Siger said the president's remarks about carrots could present an invaluable opportunity for the fresh produce industry to spotlight the many healthful qualities of carrots, which are rich in beta-carotene and vitamin A, as well as other commodities.
The United has prepared tip sheets for the president and the media detailing the benefits of carrots and broccoli and pointing out facts about the two vegetables.
Rich Speidell, vice president of Mike Yurosek & Son Inc., Lamont, Calif., said that while Bush's dislike for carrots likely will be taken jokingly by the industry, he may have opened the marketing window more for carrots.
Bush said he recognizes the healthful qualities of carrots and broccoli, but that those qualities only prove his claim that they ``taste just like medicine.''
Speidell said promoting creative recipes and the good taste of carrots would be his way to encourage Bush and the American public to eat carrots.
Lisa Cork, marketing manager for Apio Produce Sales, Guadalupe, Calif., said Bush's comments should have little effect on the industry.
``It is the same old crime, new crime victim,'' she said. ``Being against vegetables is fine. (His comments) worked out fine for broccoli, but now it has crossed over the line of being humorous.''
Cork said it's difficult to understand why Bush continues to attack fresh vegetables, particularly in light of the 5 a Day campaign and other efforts by the industry and U.S. health officials to improve Americans' diets.
If President Bush had a reckless attitude about modeling bad dietary guidance from the Bully Pulpit, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have been superstars in saying all the right things.
In a news release July 9, United Fresh Produce Association issued this statement about “broccoli as favorite food” reports:
WASHINGTON, DC – “We’re very pleased to hear that President Barack Obama has named broccoli his favorite food at today’s White House Kids’ State Dinner. We appreciate the emphasis on good nutrition and healthful eating that the president and First Lady Michelle Obama have made, and their efforts surely have made an impact on the children who were at the special event today, as well as countless others across the country. It is important for all of us to remember that all fruits and vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet,” said Ray Gilmer, United Fresh vice president of issues management & communication.
President Obama was asked about his favorite food at the second annual Kids' State Dinner, which was actually a luncheon in the East Room of the White House. As part of the First Lady’s Let's Move initiative, children were invited to submit their original recipes and one from each state was selected to attend.
At one point in the July 9 event, Reuters reported that the President told the kids this: "Food can be fun. It can be healthy," Obama said. "You are setting up habits that are going to be great your entire life."
In President Obama’s case, those habits set in his childhood may have centered more on burgers and barbeque than broccoli, but the industry will be the last group to find fault for telling impressionable kids to “do as I say and not as I do.”