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Feeding the hungry ... congressmen.

Feeding the Hungry.... Congressmen

What's the secret to throwing the "biggest ice cream party in the world"?

It's not the 2,500 gallons ice cream, the 13,000 ice-cream novelties, the 5,000 A&W root beer floats, the 250 gallons of Smucker's toppings, or the 100 pounds of nuts. No. It's the open invitation to all members of Congress, their staffs, and families.

That invitation drew some 10,000 people this past June to the sixth annual Capitol Hill Ice Cream Social--sponsored by the International Ice Cream Association and the Milk Industry Foundation.

Baskin-Robbins, Cumberland Farms, and Haagen-Daz were just a few of the companies contributing to the festivities, which saw ideological opposites the likes of Representatives Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) and Ken Gray (D-Ill.) slurping their cones in an unusual display of congressional harmony.

And harmony no doubt reigns whenever House and Senate potato chip, omelet, beer, and chocolate lovers gather together. To wit:

SnackPAC. Members of this political action committee of the Potato Chip/Snack Food Association distribute this filled with potato chips during the winter holiday season. Three of the more notable recipients of these special barrels have been the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and the House Education and Labor Committee (which oversees federal school lunch programs). The labels on the barrels used to read: "Healthful Treats from Basic Foods," but a mention in Nutrition Action Healthletterhs Food Porn department a few years ago may have contributed to the demise of that bit of snackfood-ese.

United Egg Producers. Each April Congress en masse is invited to an Omelet Luncheon, where members and their staffs can not only watch expert omelet chefs do their stuff(ing), but can experiment with putting together their own cholesterol cloggers.

Stroh Brewing Company. In 1983 the Michigan House delegation threw a Capitol Hill Beer Bash to celebrate the arrival of Stroh's "Signature" beer in the Washington area. With the brewer footing the bill, the delegation turned a House committee room into a beer hall. They still talk about that one.

Chocolate Manufacturers Association. The CMA is the darling of House and Senate secretaries. The industry group solicits sample products from its member firms, which are distributed to each congressional office on National Secretary's Day.

The CMA also contributes to the preservation of that venerable Capitol Hill tradition--keeping the Senate Cloakrooms in sweets. These exclusive lounges for Senators are repositories of free goodies from any number of food trade groups.

Throughout the year, snacks are sent to Senator's offices by hundreds of companies, groups, and individuals. Many end up in the cloakrooms. According to one cloakroom attendant, Nabisco products and Mrs. Field's Cookies are regulars.

Manufacturers and growers associations have been supplying their state's representatives with free food for years.

"M & M's just sends us a continuing stock," an aide to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) told The New York Times in October. "It's a nice promotional tool for the company and a tasty treat for people visiting the office." M & M Mars Inc. is based in Hackettstown, New Jersey.

(M & M's have replaced free cigarettes as gifts on Air Force One and at Camp David, according to The Times. Guests on the President's plane now receive white boxes of M & M's, with the Presidential seal and Ronald Reagan's signature in gold ink on one side, and a "humanoid" M & M waving an American flag on the other.)

Somewhere along the line, producers must have realized that providing Senators and Representatives with food is an inexpensive form of advertising. (It probably doesn't hurt when it comes time for the years and nays, either.)

And maybe that's not such a bad thing. We can think of more than a few members of Congress who could do the country a favor by keeping their mouths busy wolfing down free food--even it is junk.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:food manufacturers & political action committees distribute their products on Capitol Hill
Author:Schmidt, Stephen B.
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Dec 1, 1988
Words:639
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