‘’I do not like broccoli,’’ the president said. “‘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!’’
Twenty-three years later, that green, odd-looking vegetable of flowering heads and stalks is again getting a few minutes of national fame thanks to an unlikely trio of the Affordable Care Act, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and a report in the Washington Post.
Follow along; it will all make sense.
Broccoli’s age-old stereotype is that (a.) it’s healthy and (b.) kids don’t like it, which often means adults don’t like it, either. That stereotype was woven throughout the Supreme Court’s deliberations of the ACA, the Washington Post has reported; at one point, Scalia said, “Everybody has to buy food sooner or later. Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.”
The inference, of course, is that few would want to buy broccoli.
But hold on, broccoli-lovers. That’s not necessarily the case.
Using federal data, Post reporter Sarah Kliff discovered that, indeed, Americans do buy broccoli, the elder Bush or Scalia notwithstanding. In 2011, broccoli accounted for one-third of all U.S. vegetable imports (excluding potatoes) because American farmers can’t keep up with the demand. Kliff also found out that per-person consumption of broccoli has tripled over the last 30 years. In 1980, Americans on average ate 1.4 pounds of broccoli a year. In 2010, that number had spiked to 5.6 pounds.
Imagine a five-pound sack of potatoes at the grocery. Now, imagine that sack filled with five pounds of broccoli.
Any way you serve it — boiled, steamed or raw — that’s a lot of broccoli.
It also shows that just because a president or Supreme Court justice says it, it’s still worth checking out the facts.