Heard on the Hill

How to Eat Like an Intern

This reporter tried to eat, and do activities, for free over a week on the Hill and it wasn’t easy

Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., eats a corn dog during the American Meat Institute’s annual Hot Dog Lunch in the Rayburn courtyard on July 18. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Full disclosure: I’ve never interned on the Hill. But I have been an unpaid intern, and most people you meet in Washington have too.

Without a chunk of money in the bank, how do interns get by? 

Supposedly the Capitol complex is teeming with free things, with hot dogs piled on crab cakes piled on health screenings. As interest groups ply their wares, you can’t go ten feet without stumbling over a finger food, or so it can seem at first.

I spent a week testing the freebie theory, trying not to spend a dollar.

What I found is that it’s impossible not to take out your wallet for a week on the Hill. 

Wednesday, July 11: I realized open-invitation breakfast events are few and far between, so that’s something I did have to pay for.

For lunch, I checked out a summer seafood event hosted by the Seasonal Employment Alliance, Amigos Labor Solutions Inc. and Lindy’s Seafood Inc., right outside the Capitol Hill Club on the House side.

Not a bad amount of crab. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)
Not a bad amount of crab. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)

The crab cakes they handed out were bigger than ping-pong balls, and on top of that I got some information about the H-2B visa program, which the groups were pushing for.

Then I headed over to a pet adoption event hosted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the Rayburn House Office Building foyer. No snacks, but the ice tea was flowing freely — and it was 90 degrees outside, so that was appreciated.

The table of ice tea got pretty crowded at ASPCA's event. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)
The table of ice tea got pretty crowded at ASPCA's event. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)

While my attempt at a free lunch might not have panned out, dinner was a success.

The American Soybean Association and the National Oilseed Processors Association threw a reception in the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building. The open event was packed with staffers — and food.

The buffet line featured three different pasta options, pot stickers, empanadas, guacamole, salsa and chips and beer and wine. I think Day One was a success.

Pasta for everyone at the Soy Reception. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)
Pasta for everyone at the Soy Reception. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)

Thursday, July 12: I started my morning at an event with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Farmworker Women’s Alliance and National Women’s Law Center. Not only did I get to see Jane Fonda, who was pushing legislation to support farm and domestic workers, but there was coffee, tea and soda. 

At noon, the Library of Congress hosted a free Italian folk concert, complete with lute and accordion, in the Thomas Jefferson Building’s Coolidge Auditorium. The concert series continues throughout the summer.

Friday, July 13: Time for a massage, paired with a melanoma screening. The free all-day event in the Hart Senate Office Building was hosted by the Senate Health Promotion Office.

To get my food fix, I walked over to Union Market for its D.C. Scoop ice cream social, starting at 5 p.m. It came on the heels of National Ice Cream Day, and also a long week — so a free scoop went down easy.

D.C. kids, and Rep. Marc Veasey, were also invited to play at the Youth Sports Expo. (Courtesy of Active Policy Solutions)
D.C. kids, and Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, were also invited to play at the Youth Sports Expo. (Courtesy Active Policy Solutions)

Tuesday, July 17: I checked out the annual Congressional Youth Sports Expo, which was open to all staffers.

Hosted by the National Council of Youth Sports in the Rayburn Building foyer, you could try football, rugby or baseball in the middle of the workday. It was a nice break.

Wednesday, July 18: A treat. The North American Meat Institute hosted its annual hot dog lunch in the Rayburn courtyard. It was also National Hot Dog Day, and yeah, there was a lot of ketchup. 

UNITED STATES - JULY 18: Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., gets his baseball signed by Hall of Fame member Tim Raines, during the American Meat Institute's annual Hot Dog Lunch in the Rayburn courtyard on July 18, 2018. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, also appears. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., gets his baseball signed by baseball Hall of Famer Tim Raines, who was also at the hot dog lunch. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, waits his turn in line. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

While Wednesday may have been satisfying, this fake intern would have been pretty hungry by the end of this week — and probably very behind on her work.

See the Hot Dog Lunch for Yourself

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