Nearly 20 years after acquiring it from the old National grocery chain, Schnucks, which operates nine markets in the city, announced this week that it will close the store it operates at North Grand and Kossuth. The Schnucks family said that the store there has been operating at a loss since it opened and that it was a financial decision to close it.
From a public health standpoint, this is not good news. It is more difficult to help people live healthier lives if something reduces convenient access to fresh foods and vegetables. The Schnucks closing will leave a Schnucks, two Aldis, two Sav-A-Lots, a Shop 'n Save, and a food co-op on St. Louis Avenue in the neighborhoods of north St. Louis.
Health Director Pam Walker, who heads the citywide effort to combat obesity and improve nutrition, is already working on the issue.
In addition to a range of educational programs, the Health Department is supporting more than 200 community gardens and fresh food co-ops in the city. It is offering weekend and summer lunch programs for children who regularly rely on school meals for a healthy diet. And it has launched a pilot program that puts fresh foods into neighborhood convenience stores, like the Regal Meat Market in Walnut Park. There are plans for a fresh food delivery service.
Initiatives like these are small oases in food deserts. And seeds of a stronger community effort to provide healthier food choices. One fewer Schnucks is a setback, but not a fatal blow.