Who Foots The Bill For White House Food?

The citizenry rarely catches a glimpse of private life in the White House, as is only fair to the first family, but we do know some of its luxuries. Business Insider reports that the executive residence's 132 rooms include a tennis court, swimming pool, bowling alley, and chocolate shop. But perhaps the greatest luxury of all is that the White House comes rent-free, mortgage-free, and with all utility bills covered (via CNN). It seems like they've got it made, doesn't it? 

Well, it turns out presidential life comes with some significant expenses, and they aren't all covered by the taxpayers. Business Insider notes that the president receives, on an annual basis, a $400,000 salary, a $50,000 expense account, a $100,000 travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment. They also get $100,000 at the start of their first term to redecorate the White House so it feels like home. This doesn't stretch as far as you might think though. 

For example, remodeling such a large residence can't be done on $100,000, and the president must pay out of pocket for anything over that. It really adds up, as the Obamas' remodel reportedly cost $1.5 million and the Trumps' cost 1.75 million. Then you've got to wonder about everyday expenses, especially food. Obviously, the Secret Service won't let the president loose in a Kroger, so who buys groceries for them and, most importantly, who foots the bill?

It depends on the meal

Who pays for White House food depends on who is being served. The most notable meals in a president's world are state dinners, at which the president and members of their administration host a visiting foreign leader. Per The White House Historical Association, these occur in the State Dining Room, which seats up to 120 people. That's a lot of meals to serve, and for these official events, it's the taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill. CBS explains that state dinners are paid for by the State Department Office of Protocol, funded by taxes. The price of hosting a single state dinner can exceed half a million dollars.

For the most part though, the president and first family eat in private, just like ordinary folks. In a 2018 interview with Jimmy Kimmel, former First Lady Michelle Obama revealed that the first family must pay for their own groceries. She explained that they submit a grocery list to White House staff and someone shops on their behalf. Afterward, the president is presented with the bill. Reader's Digest reports this is the case for all household items, such as garbage bags and toilet paper. Also, if the president wants to host a private party, they'll have to pay for the catering and staff. President Joe Biden reportedly keeps it basic with his groceries, requiring peanut butter, jelly, and of course, ice cream.