Five Questions with Jerry Greenfield

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry Greenfield, of Ben & Jerry's. (Photo courtesy of the Jimmy Fund.)

The Jerry from Ben & Jerry’s — Jerry Greenfield — stopped to chat with us at the Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl, an annual all-you-can-eat ice cream fundraiser on City Hall Plaza. It wasn’t all sweet talk, though; he told us about the business and his involvement in social causes. And, as we expected, Jerry is as cool as the ice cream he helped to invent.

How did Ben & Jerry’s get involved with the Jimmy Fund and the Scooper Bowl?
We got invited to participate probably about 20 years ago by Don White, of Hendries ice cream. The Scooper Bowl was very small at the time — it was taking place on the Common along with the dairy festival. There were cow milking displays while we were scooping ice cream; it was was back in the “wild west” days of the Scooper Bowl.

Ben & Jerry’s supports same-sex marriage and the Occupy movement. What’s the most rewarding cause you’ve championed?
I like that Ben & Jerry’s is willing to speak out about social and political issues that aren’t always safe — but are the right thing to do. The company has spoken out against nuclear weapons, against war as an answer to solve issues, and it’s spoken for marriage equality. Some of these are controversial, but the company feels that we need to speak about what is right and what is fair. The company isn’t trying to alienate anyone or upset anyone, but in pursuing human rights, civil rights and social justice, sometimes you have to ruffle a few feathers.

Do ice cream and social controversy go hand-in-hand?
Ice cream is the perfect buffer, because you can do things in a somewhat lighthearted way. Plus, people have an emotional response to ice cream; it’s more than just food. So I think when you combine caring, and eating wonderful food, it’s a very powerful combination.

There’s a “flavor graveyard” at Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury factory. Is there any flavor that you still mourn today?
Coconut-almond-fudge-chip was my all-time favorite flavor. It’s pretty self-descriptive. You have to like coconut. But, there are many wonderful flavors in the flavor graveyard that are just not appreciated by the mass-consuming public. They don’t have the delicate taste to appreciate a flavor like coconut-almond-fudge-chip.

Do you ever eat Häagen-Dazs?
I eat many different ice creams. I’m not an ice cream snob, although I do think Ben & Jerry’s is the best. But I’m happy to eat anybody’s ice cream, really. As long as it’s good. One of the great things about Ben & Jerry’s for me is that not only is it delicious, but I get it for free.

Ben & Jerry’s is just one of the many creameries dolling out ice cream, sorbet, and gelato to benefit the Jimmy Fund. The last day is tomorrow, Thursday, from 12-8 p.m. on City Hall Plaza. Admission is $10 or $5 for ages 3-9.

This interview has been edited and condensed.