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DC food council expands to Baltimore

A Washington, D.C., nonprofit that certifies restaurants that offer diners healthful and sustainable foods is expanding to Baltimore.
The United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC) has certified its first restaurant in the Baltimore area, Zia’s Café in Towson, and will certify up to 10 Baltimore-area locations as part of its continuing expansion, says the food council’s Director of Marketing Chris Stemp.

Founded in 2011, the council offers the Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) certification program. It is a points-based nutrition and sustainable best practices certification similar to  the United States Green Building Council’s LEED program.
The food council has certified more than 30 dining establishments in D.C. via its pilot program, as well as four national corporate cafes, including Google in San Francisco. Partnerships with sites like OpenTable allow diners to search for REAL restaurants.

The food council received the majority of its undisclosed funding from one individual, as well as funding from its founding corporate sponsor, Fortessa Tableware Solutions. A three-year grant from the state of Tennessee allows expansion into the state. Establishments do pay a small fee for certifications.

To date, the council has not applied for funding from Baltimore-area investors or for city grants.

“Baltimore is a great city with a thriving food scene,” Stemp says. “DC was our pilot city and we were very successful, which gives credibility in Baltimore; many of the chefs and restaurant owners know each other.”

The food council currently has a registered dietician in Baltimore and a member of its panel of experts who helps identify potential REAL restaurants. Once a core group of Baltimore-area restaurants are established, the food council plans to hire a city manager to aid Baltimore operations. The food council currently employs 11. 

Writer: Renee Beck
Source: Chris Stemp, United States Healthful Food Council
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