Downtown 320 Store expands its organic offerings

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

As more people are interested in eating organic foods, grocery stores continue to add organics to their food offerings.

Organic foods are grown without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, irradiation or hormones, so they do not pass the side effects of these chemicals on to the consumer.

Those who prefer organic foods consider them to be more nutritious, since organically raised plants must produce their own resistance to weeds and insects and organically raised meat is lower in fat and higher in omega-3s,vitamin E, beta carotene and vitamin B as a result of being grass fed.

Additionally, organic foods are frequently considered tastier as well as fresher, since they often are locally grown.

Advantages claimed for raising organic food include lower use of chemicals, improved environmental and ecosystems health, and lower use of energy.

We had always enjoyed shopping at the 320 Store in downtown Rockford, but drifted away from it for the past few years. Successfully run by one family for more than 30 years, it was known for fresh, tasty produce, much of it organic, and some specialty items, such as cheese and olives.

The new 320 Store is basically the same as the old one, but with much more variety of choice and many organic foods. Fruits and vegetables are fresh, organic for the most part, and appealing to the eye. The new owner, Al Rathod, who runs the store with his wife and brother, remarked that while most people think organic is more expensive than non-organic, it is actually less so. Additionally, organic foods are often local, saving transportation money as well as being fresher and more flavorful.

He has added a full salad bar and extremely energy-efficient freezers and refrigeration units with organic, gluten-free and vegan fare. A gluten-free diet helps people with celiac disease (inflammation of the small intestine). Those who select a vegan or vegetarian diet point out that commercial meat production uses large amounts of water, fuel and grain.

Rathod plans to add organic meat supplied by a local farmer. While he likes to sell fresh, not frozen, meat, the farmer informed him that organic meat must be frozen, then prepared soon after it has defrosted. Since it has no preservatives, it will spoil, while other meats keep a surprisingly long time. Organic meats do not contain added chemicals such as pesticides and hormones, which bioaccumulate in the animals and are then passed on to the consumer.

The 320 Store appears to be a neighborhood store, but is also much more. It brings fresh food to downtown; people who live in the neighborhood can buy fruit, vegetables and milk, rather than chips, candy and pop that is too readily available.

Rathod seemed pleased that not only do neighborhood residents shop there, but he has a sizeable clientele of courthouse employees who can have a fresh, delicious lunch and later pick up wholesome food (and organic dog treats) on their way home from work.

We will again make the 320 Store a regular stop on our Rockford trips.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail

From the April 23-29, 2014 issue

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