A debate about racial discrimination in Missouri was started after a member of University City’s human relations commission noticed that asparagus at a local grocery store was not resting in a tray of water. David Olander was in the produce section of Schnucks when he made the discovery.
“It was just sitting there dried out,” Olander said. He then found an assistant manager and asked if the quality of the asparagus have any relationship to the store’s location in a black neighborhood? The manager’s answer: “I certainly hope not.”
Olander then wrote a letter to Schnucks CEO Scott Schnuck that seemed to allege that the St. Louis area’s largest grocery chain was discriminating against minority communities. The letter led to a meeting between Olander, three Schnucks representatives and other prominent community members.
During the meeting, Olander levied numerous other complaints against the store including litter, cleanliness, warm food coolers and out-of-date items being sold, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Olander left the meeting feeling as if he had gotten his point across.
“My sense is that Schnucks is showing good faith in this matter,” he said.
The store is denying that they prioritize caring for stores that are in upscale neighborhoods at the expense of other locations.
“Schnucks does not discriminate on any level,” said spokeswoman Lori Willis. She said complaints about warm food coolers and out-of-date products were never proved and declined to say what improvements, if any, the store had implemented. Willis admitted that stores in the suburbs might be nicer, but that’s because they are newer.
“That meeting was the first we had heard of these concerns,” Willis said. “The University City Schnucks is a clean store. It’s just not a brand-new facility.”
According to Willis, on the day that Olander made his asparagus discovery, the tray of water in which the vegetable sat had simply tipped over. She says that asparagus is displayed in the same way at all Schnucks locations.