Get Real, Nashville!
By Eric D. S. Dorman

Voluntary certifications are changing the ways consumers and suppliers across the United States think about sustainability, safety, and sales. A more recent one, the Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) Certification, has made its way to Tennessee and is now encouraging establishments to rethink some of their business practices and helping residents to reimagine their diets.

A development of the United States Healthful Food Council, REAL Certification exists to identify food and foodservice operators who adhere to a list of nutritious and sustainable guidelines in their endeavors as suppliers and restaurateurs.

HereâTMs how it works: establishments freely welcome registered dieticians to inspect menus, ingredients, practices, and supply chains according to a list of key performance indicators. These dietary professionals look for things like fruit and vegetable offerings, whether menus lean fresh rather than fried, and whether chefs cook from scratch.

The signage that an establishment receives once it earns the certification is a simple way for a restaurant to let its customers know about the steps it has taken to nurture good eating habits and sustainable business.

âBinding consumers to the establishments that offer this more healthful food is very important,â says Kristen Korzenowski, project manager for Eat REAL Tennessee. âA lot of restaurants are very happy to accept this type of certification and show off these best practices.â

Korzenowski believes that restaurants are a gateway to helping shape a better food culture in Tennessee and the United States as a whole. REAL Certification is one way to address the growing epidemic of diet-related disease.

Those behind REAL know that force-feeding isnâTMt effective, though. TheyâTMre committed to the voluntary nature of this certification process, and theyâTMre concerned with more than restaurants. In addition to literally giving their stamp of approval to establishments throughout the state, theyâTMre fostering community outreach and education through strategic partnerships and events.

Eleni Papadopoulos, vice president of programs for REAL, believes that the main issue is getting people to approach food differently. And like Korzenowski, Papadopoulos thinks there is staying power to the kinds of things developing in the world of food. In their view, it isnâTMt a fad or fluke trend.

âTransparency is here to stay. I think people want to know what theyâTMre eating,â says Papadopoulos. âThey want to know where it came from, and they want to know how it can affect their health and the health of their children.â

REAL Certifications do exactly that: encourage transparency. Thanks to the rigorous inspection and the dedication of the REAL team, we the consumers can be sure that when we see the REAL logo, weâTMre dining in an establishment that takes its community seriously.

Nashville already has a reputation for good eating, but REAL will help Nashville earn a reputation for eating well.

For more information, and to find out which restaurants near you have already earned their REAL Certification, visit www.eatreal.org/nashville.