The History Of Ben & Jerry's Starts When Its Founders Were In 7th Grade

If you've ever visited a gas station, a grocery store, or even a pharmacy before, then you've probably laid eyes on a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. The duo behind the name — Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield — have been cranking out avante-garde pop-culture-inspired pop-culture inspired flavors for decades. They've earned fame for their rotation of flash-in-the-pan flavors (like Dastardly Mash, the only flavor to ever feature raisins) and for their long-standing favorites, like the psychedelic rock-inspired Phish Food.

Where did the creators' iconoclastic inventiveness come from? Per Insider, Greenfield's dad was a stockbroker, and Cohen's dad was an accountant. This background imbued the duo with business know-how, but also with opposition to the traditional (and admittedly stuffy) "business world" style. Indeed, Greenfield says he's a notorious rule-follower, and Cohen is famously the opposite, but it's a complementary pairing. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan named Ben and Jerry "U.S. Small Business Persons of the Year."

But, in 1963, the co-founders weren't building an ice cream empire: they were attending the seventh grade. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield met in gym class in Long Island, New York, where they were reportedly "the two slowest kids in class."

According to The Washington Post, however, Ben Cohen says Jerry Greenfield first cropped up on his radar not because he fell behind in gym class, but because he physically fainted. "It made quite an impression on me, and we quickly became friends."

Ice cream for the rest of us

The rest is history. (Literally.) The duo has spent the last few decades making killer ice cream and rooting for fellow underdogs. "We use all the tools we have to sell ice cream and put them in service of grassroots activists," says Chris Miller, Ben & Jerry's corporate activism manager, via HuffPost. (How cool for an ice cream company to have a corporate activism manager?)

Since the 1980s, all of Ben & Jerry's brownies have come from Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York, an equal opportunity "open hiring" business. In 1990, Ben & Jerry's started printing "Support Farm Aid" (a nonprofit that supports family farmers) on their pints. In 2002, they released the flavor "One Sweet Whirled" in partnership with the Dave Matthews Band to support a global warming awareness campaign.

In 2005, they constructed a 900-pound Baked Alaska on the lawn of the U.S. Capital to protest oil drilling in Alaska. In 2011, Ben & Jerry's scooped ice cream for Occupy Wall Street protestors raising awareness for economic inequality and wage disparity in New York City.

Today, the brand's website features an "Issues We Care About" page detailing its socio-political values, which include voting rights, racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, climate justice, and campaign finance reform. Considering Cohen and Greenfield first met because of their positions at the bottom of the social ladder as kids, their continuing legacy of political activism to give the underdogs a voice is surely a fitting one.