Schnucks is now a household name in St. Louis—in the most intimate sense of the word—stocking area pantries with the sustenance of their everyday life. But it started out as just a single confectionery store, founded by Anna Schnuck in 1939. “It was the end of the Depression, and our family was struggling,” says Anna’s grandson, current company chairman Scott Schnuck. “It was her way to make a contribution to the family and make ends meet. It was something she knew she could do—she was a great cook, and liked to be with people.”
Now in its third generation as a family-run grocer, Schnucks now has 101 stores in five states, and is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. “There aren’t many private companies who get through three generations, and there aren’t many regional family-owned grocery chains left anymore,” Schnuck says. “Our 75th anniversary only comes around once, and we wanted to celebrate it by making a contribution to the communities in which we do business.”
The culmination of that celebration will take place at a tribute gala on May 15 at The Chase Park Plaza. Featuring a performance by The Pointer Sisters, among other surprises, proceeds from the night will benefit Operation Food Search (OFS). “We’ve had a long relationship with Operation Food Search, which works in partnership with hundreds of local food relief agencies throughout the region,” Schnuck notes. About one in every three meals provided by OFS each year comes from contributions by Schnucks Markets, says OFS executive director Sunny Schaefer. Last year alone, Schnucks provided a staggering 11 million pounds of food, or the equivalent of 6.25 million meals, she adds.
“Never before in our 33-year history have so many people turned to OFS and our partner agencies because they were hungry,” Schaefer says. In addition to delivering food through traditional food banks, the nonprofit’s Operation Backpack program has provided 150,000 backpacks filled with food to children during the current school year, she says. The backpacks are sent home on Fridays with children who are at risk for weekend hunger to ensure that they are able to receive healthy food during the weekend. Another program, called Cooking Matters, teaches families how to shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget. “What’s more important than helping families cook healthy meals so their children get good, nutritious food at home?” Schaefer asks.
Schnuck echoes that sentiment, saying, “We really do believe that the business we’re in is one of the most noble professions: We provide a core need for people, and that is nourishment and survival and food. I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to provide that service to people, and I know our whole family does.”
Customers can provide their own contribution to OFS through donation bins located in area Schnucks locations. “It’s a way customers can participate, and also a way for us to leverage the volume and traffic in our stores to support area food banks,” Schnuck says. The store has also asked its business partners to make a one-time contribution to OFS in its honor, with major donations already coming in. “I think we’ll have some exciting news to share as we get closer to the event—about the amount we’ve been able to raise as a result of this,” he says. The success of the event could not be possible without the success of these sponsors, including premier sponsor Anheuser-Busch, he adds. “Sunny and I have been amazed and grateful for the response from our industry partners.”
And all of the food and funds raised will help feed some 150,000 people in St. Louis and 30 surrounding counties. “We are grateful to the Schnuck family for the trust they have placed in us over the years, and being the beneficiary of this anniversary celebration is a huge thrill,” Schaefer says. “I hope everyone in their store family knows how much they have impacted the lives of our hungry neighbors.”