[Congressional Record Volume 154, Number 9 (Tuesday, January 22, 2008)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E56-E57]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                             HON. SAM FARR

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                       Tuesday, January 22, 2008

  Mr. FARR. Madam Speaker, Members of the House, I rise today to 
recognize the great efforts by House Chief Administrative Officer Dan 
Beard to make the Capitol a more environmentally sustainable workplace. 
Mr. Beard has spearheaded the ``Greening of the Capitol'' initiative, a 
mission to make the millions of square feet of Capitol infrastructure a 
model of sustainability.
  From recyclable paper and energy-efficient light bulbs to cafeteria 
composting and sustainable seafood, Mr. Beard has re-imagined the 
Capitol complex as a new, greener place to work. I would like to convey 
my gratitude for his hard work and dedication and vow to continue as a 
partner toward this very worthwhile goal.
  I would like to submit for the Record an article appearing in the 
Washington Post on January 16, 2008. The article, written by Jane 
Black, reviews many of the excellent improvements Mr. Beard has brought 
about in our cafeterias.

       On Capitol Hill, a Vote for Edibility and the Environment

       Congress is back in session this week, soon to tackle such 
     solemn matters as the destruction of CIA videotapes and the 
     credit crunch. But in the halls of the Longworth House Office 
     Building, much of the chatter is about another weighty 
     matter: the new cafeteria food.
       As staffers briskly walk the long corridors, they stop to 
     poke into Goodies, the renamed and renovated Longworth 
     Convenience Store, which now features organic chocolate along 
     with the old Cup O' Noodles. Or they peep into the rehabbed 
     Creamery, formerly Scoops ice cream parlor. The whole place 
     has an aura of curious excitement, like a college during 
     orientation week. (Then again, that may be because many of 
     the staffers look as if they could still be in school 
       Since members departed for the winter recess, the House 
     cafeterias, which turn out 2.5 million meals a year, have 
     undergone extreme makeovers. Longworth Cafe, the largest in 
     the complex, was transformed first. Over the weekend of Dec. 
     15, the old salad bar was swapped for one made of sustainable 
     materials, ``green'' signs were installed and entrees such as 
     mystery meatloaf and mashed potatoes disappeared, replaced by 
     crispy chicken with goat cheese and spinach and a 
     ``panzanella'' station, where staffers can build a salad of 
     marinated figs, prosciutto and feta cheese.
       As of Monday, Restaurant Associates--the new contractor, 
     which also supplies food to the Kennedy Center and the 
     National Gallery--had also reopened the cafeterias in the 
     Rayburn and Cannon buildings and the Members' Dining Room.
       If only more congressional work were done as swiftly. The 
     changes are part of the larger Green the Capitol project, an 
     initiative of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that aims 
     to make the House carbon neutral by the end of the session. 
     The dining service was a prime target, and not only because 
     of the 1950s-era food. Cafeteria waste accounted for half of 
     the estimated 250 metric tons of trash the House sends to 
     landfills annually. Now the plates, cutlery, cups--everything 
     except the soup and coffee lids--is compostable and turned to 
     pulp on-site. In addition, the cafeteria offers fair-trade 
     coffee, certified sustainable seafood and as much organic, 
     locally grown food as it can deliver.
       ``I don't know much about the greening, but the food is a 
     lot better,'' said Caitlin Lenihan, press secretary for Rep. 
     Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), standing in line at the panzanella 
     station. ``I'd stopped coming a while back, but I've already 
     had the pizza and the barbecue. It's all improved.''
       Other staffers agreed, giving high marks to the quality and 
     variety of food. (And this reporter can vouch for their good 
     taste. The panzanella salad, while a far cry from the Italian 
     bread salad for which it is named, was fresh, and the Asian 
     shrimp wrap was nicely balanced by crunchy Napa cabbage and 
     carrot slaw in ginger dressing.)
       But the embrace of change, so touted on the campaign trail, 
     clearly has not quite filtered down to the aides who keep the 
     Capitol wheels in motion. Along with the praise came the 
     inevitable griping--off the record, of course.
       The No. 1 topic of complaint: that biodegradable cutlery. 
     ``Funky,'' ``wacky'' and ``weird texture'' were common 
     descriptions. Put too much pressure on the fork, several 
     staffers noted, and it snaps in half. ``I even hear the 
     spoons melt in hot drinks because they're made of 
     cornstarch,'' said one staffer. (A test of that claim proved 
     it was untrue: the first cafeteria urban legend.)
       Complaint No. 2: the prices. Under particular scrutiny by 
     caffeine-fueled aides were the bottles of Starbucks 
     Frappuccino. One staffer was so incensed that he e-mailed his 
     friends a chart illustrating how the new $3.30 price is 47 
     percent higher than the $2.25 the bottles sold for in the old 
     cafeteria and 4.8 percent higher than the approximately $3.15 
     they sell for in Starbucks stores. ``The wraps are more 
     expensive,'' said a Republican aide. ``The main entrees are a 
     little more. I'm not sure about the pizza, because I never 
     would have eaten the pizza before.''
       A reasonable complaint--if it were true. With the exception 
     of those Frappuccinos, the price hike is in their heads, says 
     Aidan Murphy, Restaurant Associates' vice president of 
     operations. All like items cost the same, he said; only new 
     dishes, such as those from the twice-weekly sushi station, 
     are more expensive than items on the old menus.
       And predictably, there was a resistance to change itself. 
     ``This is an improvement, but there are little quirks you 
     have to get used to,'' said one senior Democratic staffer who 
     visits the cafeteria every day. ``I used to get this yogurt 
     in the morning. They don't have it anymore. They have organic 
     yogurt, which I don't want.''
       The green efforts are ``generally a good thing, and we 
     support it,'' the aide said. ``But

[[Page E57]]

     I'm still a little focused on what happened to my Dannon.''