Original article at the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce

For the first time in history, diet-related diseases kill more people than communicable diseases and in the United States, today’s children may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Obesity now exceeds smoking as one of the biggest drivers of our healthcare costs, accounting for over $190 billion annually, and is directly related to preventable chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer. In addition to direct healthcare costs, annual costs associated with employee absenteeism and lost productivity due to obesity and related chronic conditions have risen to over $153 billion. Unless we change the course of our current path, the incidence of diet-related diseases will continue to increase, adding to our national debt, health insurance premiums and business expenses.

Today, the United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC), is launching Eat REAL New York to help reverse these trends. Established in 2011, the USHFC is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to fighting diet-related disease by realigning the foodservice industry’s incentives with consumers’ health interests. Americans are consuming more meals prepared away from home than ever before and market trends in the foodservice industry have created a competitive environment based on serving what is profitable, not what is healthful. The USHFC works towards its mission through the Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) Certification, a market-based incentive that recognizes food and foodservice establishments for utilizing nutrition and sustainability best practices.

Utilizing the points-based REAL Index, independent registered dietitians conduct a comprehensive establishment review that includes menu analysis, invoice and supply chain verification, and interviews. Establishments are credited with points across a range of best practices such as the use of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy preparation methods, moderate portion sizes, unsweetened beverages, healthy children’s options and sustainable sourcing. Those that satisfy the necessary requirements are awarded REAL Certification.

Since launching REAL Certification in Washington, D.C. last year with 19 restaurants, the program has certified nearly 100 foodservice locations across the country. These include the café at Google San Francisco, Music City Center in Nashville, Restaurant Nora in D.C., the popular chain Mixt Greens and many others. You can find restaurant profiles along with chef interviews for all REAL Certified establishments at www.eatreal.org.
This morning, the USHFC launched Eat REAL New York at the historic James Beard House preceding tonight’s James Beard Foundation Awards. The inaugural class of New York restaurants includes: ‘wichcraftICILocanda Vini e OliiBareburgerRose Water Restaurant, Rusty Mackerel, Insurgo Project, and the Friday Night Dinner at Natural Gourmet Institute.These restaurants are not the USHFC’s only connection to New York. At last month’s inauguralREAL Food Innovator Awards, which celebrate leaders in nutrition and sustainability, the USHFC recognized former Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a REAL Food Innovator amongst government officials and NYU’s Dr. Marion Nestle as the REAL Food Innovator of the Year.In her keynote address, Dr. Nestle applauded the USHFC’s ability to help the foodservice industry align the food they make and serve with the health and nutritional needs of the public. Among other successes, USHFC has helped a DC food truck substantially increase sales of its healthier offerings and is working with the State of Tennessee to lower the rates of diabetes and obesity.The USHFC looks forward to similar successes in New York and contributing to the health of the city and its businesses.