REAL Certification to Promote Sustainability of Food at Restaurants across the US

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – The Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) program launched by the US Healthful Food Council will help inform customers how nutritious and sustainably-sourced their food is at restaurants across the country. The program that has been launched recently as a pilot in Washington DC makes use of third party audits to certify the nutrition and sustainability of foods served at restaurants as well as from caterers and food service operators.

The REAL certification is modeled on LEED certification for sustainable buildings. REAL will award points based on nutrition and sustainable best practices. Independent food auditors will evaluate how much fruits and vegetables are included in restaurant menus, how much processed food is used, portion sizes, preparation methods, use of local and organic ingredients and leadership on best practices such as grass-fed beef and cage-free eggs.

The objective of the REAL program is to create a nationally accepted mark of excellence for the food industry. It aims to improve the sustainability of foods served while addressing the causes of diabetes, obesity and other diet-related diseases. The US Healthful Food Council says that it is encouraging to see many restaurants open their kitchens to voluntary nutrition and sustainability audits as well as embrace its recommendations for improvement.

With the program’s pilot phase getting over, the group is now launching REAL certification in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Apart from a wide range of restaurants, some of the other recent REAL certifications include the John Hancock Building in Boston, The Clorox Company in Pleasanton, California, Google San Francisco and Union Pacific in Omaha, Nebraska.

In some cases, sustainably sourced foods may cost more, and the group is working to obtain discounts for suppliers’ ingredients. This will create mutual benefit for both the restaurants who can access sustainable ingredients at a discount and suppliers who can gain new business from REAL-certified restaurants. The group is also engaged in talks with restaurant review websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable and Zagat to promote REAL certification.

Source: Sustainable Business

Image Credit: Flickr via Steven-L-Johnson

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