Yalies push broccoli

Three Yale undergraduates, with the support of local business, have
launched a campaign in the Elm City to make broccoli “cool.”
Three Yale undergraduates, with the support of local business, have launched a campaign in the Elm City to make broccoli “cool.” Photo by JR Reed .

This March, the Elm City is turning a new shade of green.

At Elm City Market this President’s Day, three Yale undergraduates officially launched a campaign to make broccoli cool.

It started with a New York Times magazine cover, “Broccoli’s Extreme Makeover.” Last year, author Michael Moss challenged Victors & Spoils, an ad agency that has created campaigns for Coke, Quizno’s and General Mills, to make broccoli as appealing as its less healthy counterparts. Victors & Spoils came up with a slew of posters and slogans, but the campaign was never launched. A few months later, Drew Morrison ’14, Monica DiLeo ’16 and Adam Goff ’15 decided to organize the campaign as a project for their Urbanization, Food Systems and Environment class. New Haven will be the first city to turn the mock-up into a reality.

The effort is being advertised throughout the city, with a digital billboard on Interstate 91, two CT Transit buses sporting broccoli posters, signs and events at Elm City Market and other stores. Broccoli specials will be served at Claire’s Corner Copia and Atticus Café & Bookstore. To attract Yale students, they will also be putting up posters throughout dining halls on campus. So far, the team has raised $470 on Kickstarter.

“[The campaign] is supposed to be a hipper version of the typical PSA you get,” said Morrison, one of the students organizing the campaign. In their “hip” approach, the team will be designing t-shirts, with slogans like “Brocclyn” and partnering with Blossom Shop to build broquets — or bouquets of broccoli. One poster reads, “Show a bro you care — give a bro a broquet.”

In an effort to build support around the movement and build “broccilitarians,” the trio is playing up the battle between kale and broccoli for vegetable supremacy. DiLeo said that kale is like broccoli’s “little brother,” adding that framing the campaign as a battle will appeal to a wide audience.

According to Goff, a student in the Food and Agriculture studies program, the campaign puts a positive spin on the vegetable, instead of simply shaming people into eating healthily. He added that they have been able to use the fact that the majority of businesses like to promote healty eating to lower the cost of the campaign.

“There’s all this goodwill around vegetables, and we’re trying to harness that because broccoli doesn’t have money behind it,” Goff said.

According to Morrison, when he reached out to Claire’s Corner Copia owner Claire Criscuolo, she told him that she had been “waiting her whole life for someone to start a broccoli campaign.” While neither Criscuolo nor the three students could confirm, DiLeo suggested that Claire’s could potentially offer broccoli cupcakes as a part of the citywide initiative.

Elm City Market Marketing Manager Amy Christensen said the grocery store plans to offer broccoli at discounted prices throughout the month to encourage customers to purchase more vegetables.

In addition to the discounted prices, Christensen plans to have Elm City Market bloggers write posts about broccoli and host a kale vs. broccoli cookoff. A dietitian will also be contributing articles and teaching classes about broccoli hosted at the market.

“We’re a co-op, and community outreach is what we’re all about,” Christensen said.

Christensen added that when the trio of approached them about partnering in this initiative the Elm City immediately jumped on board.

The broccoli campaign comes at a time of heightened focus on health issues in New Haven. Just last month, New Haven officially launched its 375,000-pound weight loss challenge, and recently, Mayor Toni Harp proposed implementing a statewide soda tax. Harp has also promised to increase the number of school-based health centers throughout the city.

Morrison said the campaign is also a chance to have a little fun with a food campaign.

“Food is something that is very emotional for people,” Morrison added. “We do so much structurally in food policy today — to do something that’s about energy and fun is such a unique opportunity and something that can really get people to change their behavior.”

According to DiLeo, while Elm City Market will be tracking the amount of broccoli purchased throughout the month, and Claire’s has the capacity to track the popularity of their daily broccoli specials, the team is not solely focused on quantitative measures. It will also measure its success by the amount of buzz generated through newspaper articles and people talking about the campaign.

“It’s not just that we want people to eat more broccoli in [these stores],” DiLeo said. “It’s putting the seed in people’s minds that broccoli can be exciting.”

According to the USDA, the average American eats four pounds of broccoli a year, 900 percent more than the average American 20 years ago.

Correction: Feb. 28

A previous version of this article misstated the amount the team earned on Kickstarter. 

 

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