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Vegetarian Staffers Foster Capitol Hill CSA Growth

Members of the Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association have put their proselytizing into practice, convincing a Pennsylvania-based farming cooperative to deliver loads of healthful organic foodstuffs to a hush-hush pickup spot within striking distance of the Capitol.

(Courtesy Shelby Boxenbaum)
(Courtesy Shelby Boxenbaum)

Shelby Boxenbaum, an aide to Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., estimates nearly 40 people have elected to feast on the bounty provided by Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, including several members of Team Cartwright, other House staffers and some Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee operatives.

The events follow Restaurant Associates’ recent decision to put the kibosh on a nascent “Meatless Mondays” offering at the Longworth cafeteria.

Lancaster delivers its raw materials — a payload that has, to date, included: kale, beets, potatoes, zucchini, pickling cucumbers, fennel, broccoli, chard and mini carrots — every Thursday to a home just a few blocks from the Capitol South Metro stop. The homeowners, whom Boxenbaum believes to be ex-Senate staffers with possible ties to the office of Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., have not only signed off on allowing staffers to use their front lawn as a grocery depot, they also purchased a full vegetable share for themselves.

Lancaster, which has a handful of drop-off sites — including a pre-existing Capitol Hill spot (Washington Community Fellowship at 907 Maryland Ave. NE) — around the city, originally wanted the House-led group to guarantee at least 40 new full-share purchases, but it has plowed forward with the pilot project even though the newcomers have fallen somewhat short.

“We haven’t quite made it to 30 yet … but we’re super close,” Boxenbaum told HOH.

In addition to effectively committing to cooking a whole ton of vegetables this summer (community-supported agriculture agreements make eating down the fridge a heightened priority), group members also agree to handle two delivery shifts: one morning (8-9 a.m.; unloading CSA boxes, prepping prearranged shares) and one evening (breaking down boxes, tidying up front lawn).

Boxenbaum said she’s been pleased with the turnout so far but remains determined to build a bigger following so the garden pipeline will keep flowing through next year.

In the meantime, she’s getting her mouth ready for the tastes of summer yet to come.

“I’m looking forward to tomatoes and lettuce,” she said.

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