Balancing Your Job and Activism on the Hill

Adam Sarvana is the head of the Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association

Adam Sarvana helped start the Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association in 2013. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Adam Sarvana helped start the Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association in 2013. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 15, 2016 at 5:00am

Adam Sarvana has found a balance between running a communications shop and connecting staffers who share common values.

He juggles being a founding member and president of the Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association and the communications director of House Natural Resources Committee Democrats.

“The challenge is making enough time for it to be what the group wants to be rather than just doing the bare minimum. Because, we do have full time jobs and they’re time consuming and when things are busy, your work is your first priority,” he said.

Having a boss who understands helps, Sarvana said.

“My boss has always been really supportive, I think in part because that’s who he is. He doesn’t necessarily think of it as a conflict or a challenge,” Sarvana said of the committee’s minority leader Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz.

“He likes the idea that each staffer who works for him has values that matter to them. He likes the idea that if we believe in something, we act on it,” he added.

Sarvana, 33, said his reasons for being a vegetarian are moral ones.

“The arguments for being a vegetarian — if you take them to their logical conclusion — I should really be a vegan. I’m just not there yet,” he said.

He adds that he wouldn’t know how to raise his six-month-old daughter, Leli, as a vegan.

He said he helped form the group because he didn’t think there were enough food options for vegetarians and vegans on the Hill.

Seven staffers are on the group’s advisory board, both vegetarians and vegans, and about 100 staffers are on the group’s email list.

“Interns, staff assistants and LCs anecdotally is half the people who show up. I hate to think it’s just the free food but I think they are probably a little more aggressive about looking for events to go to,” he said.

The group’s events in the past have involved a catered lunch. On July 15, HipCityVeg catered a hot dog challenge to feature vegetarian and vegan hot dogs.

Next will be a showcase for several vegan and vegetarian restaurants in D.C.

“There is a perfectly good vegan and vegetarian market for food, for good food in the city,” he added. “You don’t have to go home and cook yourself oatmeal every day.”

The association, which started in 2013, recently created a Facebook group.

“We want people to know not just that we exist but we want to create more of an online community to talk about what people would like on the Hill,” he said.

The association is non-partisan and politically diverse. Staffers get the opportunity to meet others from both parties and from committees and personal offices.

“It’s not about taking a political position, it’s about values that have nothing to do with who you work for,” Sarvana said.

“I’ve never had somebody say ‘This event that you threw really put me off.’ The more they learn, the more they like it,” he added.