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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Restaurants to Get Own "LEED Certification"

New Organization Launched to Increase Access to Healthful, Affordable Food and Beverage Options While Eating-Out

The United States Healthful Food Council Aims to Improve Americans’ Health by Offering Incentives and Assistance to Restaurants and Foodservice Providers

WASHINGTON, DC – With Americans now spending 50% of their food dollars, and consuming the majority of their calories, at restaurants and other foodservice establishments, a new non-profit, non-governmental organization called the United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC) was launched this week to help consumers make better informed decisions on where to eat. USHFC will work to improve the health of Americans by providing incentives, programs and tools to the foodservice industry to serve more fresh, minimally processed, local, and environmentally friendly options.

“Eating out has become a necessity for most Americans of all of ages and demographics, which means the restaurant and foodservice industry has unprecedented influence over the food choices and, consequently, the overall health of America,” says Lawrence Williams, USHFC President. “Unfortunately, the hyper-competitive nature of the restaurant business results in tremendous pressure to reduce costs, which typically comes at the price of consumers’ health.” Williams continued, “the USHFC intends to promote eating establishments that are doing the right things, and assist those that are not.”

The USHFC will help consumers distinguish restaurants and other foodservice providers that are utilizing nutrition best practices; such as the use of fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits, whole grains, moderate portions sizes, and minimally processed food and beverages with higher nutritional qualities, while decreasing the use of additives such as industrial trans-fats, sugar, sodium and MSG. In addition, foodservice providers will be credited for their use of environmentally friendly and humanely raised foods, as well as special dietary offerings such as children’s menus, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, Paleolithic, and identification of common food allergens.

“As a restaurant owner and chef, I feed people for a living, so I believe I have a responsibility to do so well and sustainably,” said Chef Ris Lacoste, of RIS in Washington DC. “There are large variations in industry purchasing and preparation practices, and customers are increasingly looking for signs that indicate, ‘this house cares.’ We go to great lengths to find and use high-quality and healthful ingredients, so I enthusiastically support the efforts of the USHFC.”

The USHFC is developing programs to provide recognition, incentives and assistance to eating establishments across the entire spectrum of foodservice provision—from high-end restaurants, to fast-casual establishments and eventually school cafeterias, fast food chains, sporting complexes and military and other government foodservice providers. The USHFC initial programs are being modeled after other non-profit initiatives that have successfully incentivized corporations and independent businesses to align their practices with the interests of consumers, such as:

· The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Bottled Water Scorecard; and
· The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System®

Future programs of the USHFC include cost-effective nutritional analysis and menu labeling
(as required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act), advising on recipe reformulation and working with suppliers and restaurant purveyors to provide discounts on USHFC “certified” products.

“Successfully operating numerous fast-casual storefronts requires maintaining superior quality and customer satisfaction, while keeping operations and supply costs under control,” says Brian Scott, Director of Operations for Arlington, Virginia’s Rabbit Grill. “Expanding the accessibility of affordable, high-quality, healthful ingredients would be a profound contribution to both the industry and consumers.”

The USHFC is also working on a series of programs to assist customers and families eating away from home in making the right choices. The USHFC is interested in partnering with restaurant reservation and food review websites, as well as other environmental, nutrition and sustainable certification programs to help consumers make informed decisions on where to spend their food and beverage dollars, which are becoming increasingly individualized. Programs in development include a nationwide, universal mobile application that will allow consumers to find the food options to satisfy their personal needs.

“Thanks to innovative technologies like smart phones, tablets and social media apps, environmentally and health-conscious consumers are increasingly empowered to make well-informed decisions about where and what to eat,” said Destin Joy Layne, Director of the GRACE Communication Foundation's Eat Well Guide and Sustainable Table.

The USHFC is independently financed through tax-free donations from individuals and foundations and is planning partnerships with foodservice providers that share its goals and values. The USHFC is advised by a growing Panel of Experts including industry leaders, policy makers and other health specialists who believe in the value of increasing the accessibility of healthful food away from home.

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