Committed to winning America's fight against diabetes, obesity and other diet-related diseases, the United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC) has announced that it has almost doubled the number of REAL Certified restaurants in and around Washington D.C., including the first certified food truck and catering company.

It also unveiled that it has expanded its management team to begin REAL Certification in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston.

"It's been heartening to see so many chefs and restaurants not only enthusiastically open their kitchens to a voluntary nutrition and sustainability audit, but also seek and embrace our recommendations for improvement," said Lawrence Williams, USHFC president and CEO. "Now that we have validated the model and grown our team, we're ready to expand and deliver the benefits of REAL Certification to consumers and industry throughout the country."

The Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership program assesses and certifies foodservice businesses based on their use of nutrition and sustainability best practices, and serves as a beacon for consumers seeking healthier options, Williams said. Unlike most other healthy eating programs that focus on negative habits, the Eat REAL campaign focuses on increasing the consumption of healthful and sustainable food and beverages. Like the building industry's LEED certification, USHFC's REAL Certification provides third-party verification of nutrition and sustainability best practices, and is designed to serve as a nationally recognized mark of excellence for the food industry.

Developed in collaboration with an independent panel of experts, REAL Certification evaluates a foodservice establishment's use of vegetables and fruits, use of processed foods, methods of preparation, portion sizes, sourcing from local and organic vendors, and leadership in utilizing best practices such as cage-free eggs and grass-fed beef.

Now on board to take the program national is Chief Operating Officer David Bancroft, who previously headed the Just Label It campaign, which drove 1.3 million signatures to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration demanding federal labeling of genetically engineered foods, and built an unprecedented corporate and consumer membership.

"David Bancroft's senior leadership experience in the nonprofit environmental community spans more than two decades and will be critical in helping us meet the challenges ahead," Williams said.

Fundraising strategist Charles Benya, is joining the team as VP for development. He served as an adviser to former First Lady Rosalynn Carter at the Institute for Caregiving and held key positions at leading arts institutions throughout the Midwest. Also on board are entrepreneur Brendan Murphy, who will serve as VP for partnerships, and non-profit CPA Victoria Justice, director of finance.

"We're confident that we now have the team to effectively execute the REAL Certification program on a national scale and better align the business and consumer interests on this challenging issue," said Bancroft.

Read more about food safety.

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