Dry asparagus prompts questions about racial discrimination in University City
A dried-out batch of asparagus has touched off a debate about racial discrimination, grocery stores and the role of citizen-led commissions.
It started in May when resident David Olander was perusing the produce section of the University City Schnucks. He noticed the asparagus weren’t resting in a tray of water.
“It was just sitting there dried out,” said Olander, a member of the city’s human relations commission.
Olander summoned an assistant manager, and then he asked the question: Did the quality of the asparagus have any relationship to the store’s location in a black neighborhood?
“‘I certainly hope not,’” Olander recalled the manager saying.
Olander’s experience prompted him to write a letter to Schnucks CEO Scott Schnuck, and out of that came a meeting with Schnucks employees.
But the letter and meeting were tinged with allegations that the St. Louis area’s largest grocery chain was discriminating against minority communities — accusations that Schnucks vehemently denies.
“Schnucks does not discriminate on any level,” said spokeswoman Lori Willis.
I do know that national chain fast feeders give lower quality foodstuffs to their ghetto locations. It’s not as if Bellcurvius has discriminating palettes, but they do have an insatiable appetite for food from 365BellCurve fast feeders. So why waste the best choices on them?
That said, I’m tempted to think that Schnucks might be doing the same thing here. Trouble is, Bellcurvius isn’t exactly known for being asparagus aficionados, so there’s no incentive for the Schnucks Home Office to stick them with crummy asparagus.
On top of that, there’s a simpler and probably more truthful explanation — If the U-City Schnucks they’re taking about here is the one on Olive close to Heman Park, then most of the employees at this Schnucks are probably black, (even though the Schnucks itself is close to the SWPL liberal heavily Jewish south-of-Olive part of U-City, while north of Olive is Bell Curve City), which means it’s catch as catch can when it comes to maintaining the fresh fruits and vegetables. This particular Schnucks, like many ghetto or close-to-ghetto big box grocery stores, probably also has a big problem with grazing (people eating food from packages and containers that are easy to open, without paying for it), and meat spoilage (taking a pack of meat from the meat freezer then not putting it back in the freezer when they decide they don’t want it or can’t afford it for the Kool-Aid Jammers they need to buy).
Meanwhile, you can probably guess where I get my fresh asparagus when I’m in the mood for asparagus.