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Sodexo beats N.Y. firm for U.S. House cafeteria contract

U.S. CapitolWASHINGTON  — Jamba Juice, Dunkin’ Donuts and fresh sushi are coming to the House of Representatives.

The House is changing contractors for its several cafeterias and other food vendors. The new provider, Sodexo, promises to retain qualified workers amid widespread debate about their pay and work conditions.

Maryland-based Sodexo will replace New York-based Restaurant Associates, which has held the House food service contract since 2007. Restaurant Associates still runs the cafeterias in the Capitol Visitors Center and Senate buildings.

Changes under Sodexo’s four-year contract will include converting the Rayburn Deli to a Subway sandwich shop and turning the Longworth Creamery into a Dunkin’ Donuts, the House Chief Administrative Officer announced Tuesday. The popular Longworth Cafeteria will feature “sushi made fresh daily,” and “Jamba Juice smoothies will be available in Rayburn.”

Any increase in food prices would be limited to 3 percent annually, after six years without increases, the announcement said.

Sodexo issued a statement saying it will honor the District of Columbia’s “Displaced Workers Protection Act, which entitles current qualified employees to retain their employment with the new contractor through a 90-day transition process.” Sodexo, the food contractor for several federal agencies, said it will offer permanent jobs “to all current employees who successfully meet the background and security qualifications” and go through some other steps.

Some food workers in the Capitol make as little as $11 an hour, and have no work during congressional recesses. In April, dozens of Capitol food workers briefly walked off the job to protest their pay and working conditions.

At a House Appropriations hearing this year, Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida called on the House to choose contractors who pay workers a “living wage” based on local economic standards. Her amendment failed.

Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.