New hope for organic foods in Rockford

Rockford College and Angelic Organics join forces to spread awareness about organic foods

There is new hope arising in Rockford. An affiliated program involving Rockford College and Angelic Organics of Caledonia is in the midst of bringing a wave of awareness to the northern Illinois area. Their goal is education and community involvement in organic methods of food production.

A plan to lead the Rockford area into prominent local organic farming was discussed at a Jan. 12 meeting of farmers, social welfare employees, and interested parties. Benefits of the plan appear limitless, although health concerns are a main issue.

The produce supplied in supermarkets has been doused with chemicals from before the day they have been sown. According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the pesticides used in conventional farming methods have been known to increase the risk of cancer in humans and may also cause endocrine and reproduction dysfunction.

Since organic foods contain no pesticides, unnatural fertilizer, or other chemicals, safety is ensured.

The environmental factors involved also are a nice perk. Fertilizers used on non-organic farms have been known to seep into groundwater, and consequently, our drinking water, which leads to more health issues. Run-off from farms has been cited as producing 70 percent of the river and stream pollution in the United States. Organic methods pose no such threat.

Economics was also a subject discussed. The boost of producing food in our own community, as well as selling it here, promotes local jobs, financial systems, and an all-around feeling of community, all significant in improving Rockford’s economic outlook.

The community togetherness this would provide is almost reason enough alone for people to initiate such a program. Imagine taking an empty, glass-scattered, dirty lot and turning it into an ecosystem providing a safe and healthy sustenance. To achieve this, people must work together, leading to community relationships, involvement, and plans for future development, which those at the meeting explained they believe the Rockford area desperately needs.

Also discussed at the meeting were the health and community involvement influences such a plan would have on kids. Natural food is nutritious, free of toxins, and tastes great. Also, involving children in urban gardens has proven a list of rewards.

Sheila Snider, associated with Coronary Health Improvement Program (CHIP), has reported the participation, education, and nutrition stemming from urban gardens has yielded children at high-risk better test scores and less altercations at school, all leading to an improved lifestyle.

The committee’s main concern was preparing plans to allow an organic system to develop in Rockford. Financing, meetings, and government involvement are key issues. Tom Spalding of Angelic Organics said the group’s main goal “is to provide access to healthy food for people under all circumstances.” Spalding noted in particular how such a plan could benefit low-income families that otherwise would have difficutly obtaining natural foods.

The committee plans to continue its progress and hopes that in the near future steps can be taken to provide Rockford with what must be seen as a tremendously advantageous happening.

For more information, contact Donna Jones Ilsley, associate director, Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement, at (815) 394-5081 or e-mail

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