Serving children nourishment any way she can—part two

Editor’s note: The following is part two of Marjorie Stradinger’s lunch with Peg Lockman at Café Belwah in Beloit, Wis. Part one of this two-part series appeared in the Oct. 25-31, 2006, issue of The Rock River Times.

We checked with Café Belwah’s kitchen, and Peg Lockman’s chips, aside her portabella sandwich, were indeed cooked in fish oil, so she couldn’t try them. My squash bowl had lots of veggies, but was smaller than I had anticipated.

After teaching in Wisconsin, Peg moved to Rockford and taught learning disabled middle school students in Belvidere.

“I come from a family of dyslexics,” she said.

My ears perked. I, too, am dyslexic.

“Dyslexics, as a group, are brighter than average,” she said. “Until there was universal public education, they didn’t have any trouble at all operating in the real world. They were generally the leaders…because they don’t view the world the same way, and tend to be problem-solvers.”

As it got tiring to battle school administrators and run the retail food business, Peg retired from teaching.

“My last administrator told me that my biggest failing as a teacher was that I cared about my students,” she said. Her program was rated excellent, but she was informed they weren’t trying for excellence—they just needed to get by.

After moving to Roscoe, she found Turtle Creek Co-Op in Beloit, Wis. While shopping there, she met Nancy Crivello, who asked to help with the books.

After Turtle Creek closed, Nancy and Peg opened Nature’s Pantry in Rockton.

“We decided it could be fun to see if we could do it as a business,” she said. “Some problems inherent in a co-op are caused by the volunteer part of it.”

The Main Street store had an awkward entrance area.

“People couldn’t even see it…(walked) back and forth in front of the window…trying to find the entrance,” she said. “Semi drivers were parking on Blackhawk, having to wheel things across Blackhawk. It was a mess.”

Her informative store newsletter is a highlight at our home.

“I have tremendous memory,” she said. “When you’re involved in a co-op, you learn from each other…talking, working together, sharing an interest—food. Whatever I do, I tend to be passionate about it. I have a profound interest in children. Adults have a tremendous amount of power over children—kids aren’t picking the menus at home.”

As the store burst at the seams, Peg moved it across Main Street, doubling its space.

“I don’t look so much at the numbers,” she said. “We have families who shop with us. I truly believe in community. I believe in small. I would never want to be a chain.

“My store is the same size Whole Foods would be if you took everything out that isn’t organic,” she said. “They are gourmet…high end. They’re not going to come into this area because we don’t have the economic base to support what they sell.”

She has a problem when perception and marketing mislead people.

“There’s some organic food there,” she said. “They are masters at marketing. Those stores are stunning. But there isn’t one thing at their deli that is organic.”

“What’s important about organic?” I asked.

“We’ve reached an era where technology rules…science is a religion—not a fact,” she said. “It has some parts about it that are true, the way that Christianity has parts about it that, for me, are true. It also can manufacture stuff, just like people can take things from the Bible and misquote and put things together and come up with things that are odd. We have developed a blind faith in all things scientific. When you read a study…how can you sit and watch one of these ads for the drug companies…(where) death is a side effect? But it’s approved by the FDA. We have lost the ability to think.”

Like a sweet-faced general leading troops into an important battle, Peg reflected: “This cancer is all coming from some place…this heart disease coming from some place. It’s got to be coming from the way we live. Garbage in, garbage out.”

She got animated talking about genetic modification.

“I would love to be wrong,” she said. “I don’t want people to have to pay for what we’re doing. People don’t understand that once…genes are changed, you can’t go back and undo what’s been done.”

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years. She can be reached via e-mail at

From the Nov. 1-7, 2006, issue

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