- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2008

So long, fatty and foreign food. Cafeterias serving staffers on the House side of the Capitol have ditched such meals in favor of healthier menus that include organic and locally grown cuisine.

The crossover in food services is part of the “Green the Capitol Initiative” mandated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, a move that also has eliminated foam cups and plans to illuminate the Capitol Dome with environmentally friendly lighting.

“We’re thrilled with the progress that we’ve made so far,” said Daniel P. Beard, the chief administrative officer for the House of Representatives.

“We’re looking forward to even more improvements in the way we do business and getting the House community involved in reducing our carbon footprint,” he said. “The Capitol Dome shines as a symbol of democracy and soon it will also be a symbol of environmental responsibility.”

The transition was made just before the new year and is also important in reducing waste from the House complex, which produces an estimated 250 metric tons of it every month, half of which is comprised of food-service waste, Mr. Beard said.

Kathleen Quaid-Weisz, spokeswoman for Restaurant Associates, the operator under contract to run the cafeterias, said the switch is “going over big with House members.”

House members said finding a healthy meal is next to impossible on the Hill, she said.

“They had what they termed ‘a crisis of flavor on the plate,’ mainly because the bulk of the offerings were chosen for their ability to travel long distances and still maintain the appearance of being edible. That has now changed,” she said.

Some House staffers are not pleased with the changes.

“Staffers are about as thrilled with this nonsense as most taxpayers will be when they learn that they’re subsidizing sushi, tofu, couscous and other pretentious meals for federal employees,” said one Republican leadership aide.

“Most people here want a real lunch during a hectic day on the Hill, not organic noodles with nonfat soy nuts or a lecture from nannies and nutritionists,” the aide said.

A second House staffer called it an “unnecessary and useless renovation of the House kitchens and cafeterias.”

No changes are foreseen on the Senate side of the menu.

Asked whether the legendary Senate bean soup with its 2 pounds of smoked ham hocks will get a healthy rewrite, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “Oh no, that’s not changing.”

“One thing people can always count on is getting a bowl of Senate bean soup,” said spokesman Jim Manley.

A Senate Republican staffer was glad to hear that status quo will continue.

“All you can get on the House side now is a one-size drink,” the Senate staffer said. “A Soviet-style, one-size-fits-all drink — no small, medium or large drinks. It’s the exact opposite of a free market.”

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