(June 13) Having ridden a wave of sales growth with retail customers the past few years, organic fruit and vegetable distributor Goodness Greeness Inc. has launched a foodservice division.

The 15-year-old Chicago-based company, which has worked with numerous small to medium-sized organic growers and developed organic programs with retail customers, has secured foodservice accounts with school systems and health care facilities, as well as upscale and smaller, family-owned restaurants.

The company also hired Dan Bobel, a longtime organics wholesaler in Chicago, to direct the foodservice division, in January.

“There’s definitely a need for this service, with the availability of organics and our ability to service the customers,” Bobel said. “It does lead us to some challenges, but we’re working a lot more (with local customers) than we ever were before.”

Cost is one of the hurdles the company faces, particularly when dealing with school systems, Bobel said.

“One school system we’re working with, we’ve got to feed kids for, like, under $1.25 a day, so there lies an issue,” he said. “But if you communicate with the growers and actually tell them there are subsidies and grants to be had, that helps us (meet the cost issue) in working with the school systems.”

The foodservice division’s hospital business also is a natural, Bobel said.

“We have products across the board, from mesclun mix to specialty items,” he said, adding that cancer-treatment centers are a particularly good fit for organically grown fruits and vegetables.

Bobel said he brought a long list of customers with him when he joined the company in January.