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Fresh Man

OrganicLife’s Jonas Falk—just 28—lands on Forbes’ second annual “30 Under 30” list thanks to his innovative take on healthy grub.

OrganicLife founder Jonas Falk at Mixed Greens, a restaurant he co-owns in River North

Chicagoan Jonas Falk, founder and CEO of OrganicLife (organiclifeonline.com), Illinois’ leading food service provider of naturally nourishing school lunches, recently earned a spot on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for revolutionizing the cafeteria concept with his startup turned “super-food” company. The New Trier grad, who works in River North and lives off the Mag Mile, brings farm-to-table fare to the Lilliputian masses. What a delicious idea...  

Has organic food always been a part of your life? I was heavy as a child, so I got into exercising and watching my diet at an early age. I started working in restaurants right at the end of high school, and while attending Michigan State University, I started to build the business plan. I wanted to start a food service management company around great food, scratch-cooked food. It wasn’t necessarily a passion for organic, but a passion for the best products out there.

OrganicLife serves millions of lunches monthly to hundreds of schools in Chicagoland. Are there plans to expand your reach in 2013? Yes. We currently work with schools and daycares. This year our plan is to expand in Illinois, and then Indiana, Wisconsin and Missouri, and eventually move into college campuses and hospitals.

Montessori Academy of Chicago was your very first contract. What was the early pitching stage like? We walked around to the schools to pitch them the plan of fresh, organic, healthy meals. Montessori signed up on the spot. Unlike the megacompanies [who produce the majority of bulk food service meals across the U.S.], we produce meals daily from 20 sites throughout Chicago for the schools. Everything is fresh, never frozen. Sure enough, three months after Montessori signed on, we had a waiting list of schools that wanted our program.

What’s the scariest meal you’ve seen in a Chicago school? I remember walking through an elementary school last year and the day’s entrée options for 7- and 8-year-old kids consisted of rectangular frozen pizza or a jumbo pretzel with cheese sauce. And the salad bar boasted brown lettuce, pickles, frozen strawberries and American cheese wedges. We don’t have the biggest company in the world, our competitors do billions and billions of dollars in business, but seeing conditions like that is what makes us get up in the morning.