If you ever get hungry on Capitol Hill, you don't have to reach for your wallet or head to the cafeteria. There's plenty of free food in lawmakers' offices.
That's right: most lawmakers keep snacks from their home states in their Capitol Hill offices. Treats like Utz chips and Hershey's Chocolate can be found in the offices of Pennsylvannia Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, and both New York senators -- Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand -- have mini-fridges stocked with Chobani Yogurt in their office reception areas.
The snacks are well known to most people who work on the Hill, but for out-of-town visitors, the food is a great way to help them feel at home, and nonresident visitors can learn something about that state's food.
The tradition of offering local snacks has been a longstanding one on Capitol Hill. Although it's unclear when the practice began in the Senate, members of the House have been doling out treats since the early 1900s.
In an interview for the House's Oral History Program, Benjamin C. West, the former superintendent of the House Press Gallery, said members of the press gallery would often receive food from members' local districts.
"There'd be a couple of bushel baskets of freshly picked peaches," West said. "You know, not the stuff in the supermarket that was picked last year. And reporters, they would come into the gallery, and they would have a big brown paper box of something, sockeye salmon from Alaska, perhaps."
These days, most of the snack offerings are nonperishables. We decided to take a tour of some Senate offices and see what kind of food we could forage. We weren't disappointed.
We found Kellogg's cereals at our first stops in Nebraska Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse's offices. Although Kellogg's headquarters is in Michigan, the cereal company has a large plant in Omaha.
We found lots of chocolate from Hershey, Pennsylvania, in Sen. Bob Casey's office.
We stopped by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's office for some Tropicana Orange juice, but found they were fresh out.
But we did get an entire box of apple fruit leathers in Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell's office. It was probably the healthiest and most unique snack we found.
We discovered that California Sen. Kamala Harris has freshly popped popcorn in her reception area every day at 3:30 p.m.
And, most exciting of all, we finally found some orange juice in Florida Sen. Bill Nelson's office.
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