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Have Politico’s Snacks Gone Downhill?

Politico's snacks in 2015. Photograph by Kate Bennett.

When Politico moved into its new office in Rosslyn in 2015, its lavish program of free snacks drew immediate praise from employees. The publication’s previous office had a somewhat grim break room served by vending machines, and employees reveled in the upgraded options.

Now that news about the Trump administration breaks at an unhealthy pace and staffers rely on impromptu sustenance, Washingtonian hears grumbles that Politico’s snack program has lately declined in quality. Gone are many of the democratically selected, healthy-ish snacks that greeted employees in the new digs, replaced by more garbage-y and delicious stuff like cookies and M&M’s.

In a newsroom as packed with interesting people as Politico’s, one would expect differing opinions, and Washingtonian was able to find those. Some praised the glorious smorgasbord of junk food or disputed that there has been any decline in quality. The addition of Chex Mix appears to be popular, but the replacement of string cheese with Babybels? Not so much. “WHICH ARE GARBAGE CHEESE,” one source in the newsroom typed with unexpected emphasis. Another offered to go check out the fridge but fell out of contact after that.

Politico has  three main snack areas: One in the newsroom and another to the side of the lobby, near the conference rooms. Those are organized as “snack islands.” The main snack hub is on an upper floor connected to the newsroom by a staircase. Each of these stations, apparently has a snappy coffee machine, though even those retain the ability to disappoint:

Employees at Politico’s New York office can only look on wistfully at any complaints about snack degradation: They have no snacks, just a water cooler and a Keurig. Staffers in the Brussels newsroom fare a little better but regard Rosslyn’s spread with some jealousy. The European operation has several fruit bowls, and all the good stuff is gone by the end of the week, leaving pears and kiwis, which, let’s be honest, require some planning to eat and no one really wants. There are also chocolate bars and some junk food. The coffee is terrible, one source says, and some people have resorted to bringing in their own machines. But, this person adds, they have beer pretty frequently for office celebrations.

(Full disclosure: The “snack program” in Washingtonian‘s office consists of four office-sized cartons of Lipton Cup-a-Soup, styrofoam containers left over from our critics visiting restaurants for Cheap Eats, and occasionally bagels from ad-team meetings. We have a Flavia coffee machine and a couple of water coolers.)

In a testament to Politico’s robust early warning system for media reporting, the company’s vice president for communications contacted Washingtonian after I began poking around in the newsroom for people who wanted to spill about the snack program but before I sought comment from the brass. Brad Dayspring says the tweaks to the free food represent nothing more than “an effort to be responsive to employee feedback and preferences. In short, the snack Gods at POLITICO have replaced items that employees weren’t eating and drinking with products that they seem to more broadly enjoy.”

Among the new offerings, Dayspring says, are Gatorade and veggie chips. Katie Pudwill, Politico’s director of communications, followed that email with news of some items Politico is currently “testing,” including tuna and chicken salad, Brussel sprouts with cranberries and goat cheese, and Dang-brand coconut chips. Those all sound pretty good.

This story has been updated with details of Politico Europe’s snacks.

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Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.