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Zoo’s Eateries First in Indiana to Earn REAL Certification

September 4, 2015

Program recognizes restaurants offering healthy, sustainable foods

INDIANAPOLIS — Fresh flavors, local ingredients, healthy options — those are the principles that recently earned two of the Indianapolis Zoo’s eateries the United States Healthful Food Council’s REAL Certification.

Café on the Commons and the seasonal Farm to Table salad cart are the firstIndy Zoo REAL restaurant locations in Indiana to receive the REAL Certification, which stands for Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership. Additionally, the Indianapolis Zoo is the first zoo in the nation to earn the distinction, in partnership with Centerplate, the Zoo’s hospitality partner.

“Health and sustainability play a significant role in our food preparation from start to finish,” said Zoo Executive Chef Joe Hsu. “We start every dish using as many local and organic products as we can.”

Since first joining Centerplate’s staff at the Zoo in 2013, Hsu has redesigned the Zoo’s menu to serve a mix of delicious dishes, including everything from traditional indulgences to more health-conscious culinary creations. Whether guests order a burger with fries, an entrée salad or one of the 50-plus other offerings, the focus is on using high-quality, locally sourced and organic ingredients whenever possible. Salads, sandwiches, soups and soft pretzels are just a few examples of foods made on site, and many of the herbs that flavor these foods are grown on Zoo grounds.

Highlighting those practices that promote sustainability and maximize nutrition, incorporating lighter preparation techniques and adjusting portion sizes helped the Zoo attain the prestigious certifications.

The USHFC developed its REAL Certification program in 2012. This nationally recognized standard not only acknowledges food service organizations for their healthful and sustainable practices, it also helps consumers identify eateries that are committed to serving delicious and nutritious foods.

In addition to the Zoo’s certifications, Centerplate has also earned the REAL Certification for its hospitality services at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn.