Westwood Square community tries to tackle quality concerns at Las Palmas H-E-B

The Las Palmas store is set to undergo renovations and enhancements, but no timeline has been set

SAN ANTONIO – Even though the Las Palmas H-E-B sits at the corner of Castroville and South General McMullen in Westwood Square, Velma Peña, the Westwood Square Neighborhood Association president, said it’s been years since she bought her weekly groceries there.

“I stopped going to that H-E-B because I noticed a lot of expired stuff,” Peña said. “They pride themselves on giving the services of good quality food. Well, I’m sorry, we’re not getting that at this H-E-B.”

In the first episode of KSAT 12′s “Know My Neighborhood” series, Westwood Square community members reported finding food past its “best if used by” date, empty shelves and old infrastructure at the Las Palmas H-E-B.

In one shopping trip to the Las Palmas location, KSAT 12 found $40 worth of food past its use-by date. Neighbors, like Peña and Jesusita Rios, said they weren’t surprised.

“No, not at all,” Rios said. “I think it wasn’t shocking to anybody that lives in the neighborhood.”

The USDA has classifications for a food’s quality with terms like “best if used by/before,” “sell-by” and “use-by.” Below are the definitions:

  • “Best if used by/before”: This date shows when a product will have its best flavor and quality. It’s not a purchase or safety date.
  • “Sell-by”: This date tells a store how long to display a product for sale and inventory management. It’s not a safety date.
  • “Use-by”: This date is the last date recommended for a food to be at its peak quality. It is not a safety date unless it’s for certain infant formulas.

The USDA said if a product is past one of these dates, it usually is still safe to be consumed unless spoilage is evident. But the food will not be of its best quality.

Before the first episode aired, KSAT took these concerns directly to H-E-B. Communicating with the public affairs department of the supermarket chain, KSAT asked on five separate occasions through emails if the department would comment on food past its “best if used by” date.

KSAT never got a direct response to those concerns.

Instead, Valentino Lucio, a spokesperson for H-E-B, sent a statement commenting on the role that H-E-B provides in the San Antonio area, bringing “fresh and quality products.” That statement said H-E-B invests “in our communities.”

Lucio confirmed that the Las Palmas store is among the list of supermarket stores planned for renovation and enhancement projects in the near future. But he said no timeline is set for the project.

Lucio first sent specific projects expected for the Las Palmas store to KSAT 12 in September, but later in October asked to revise the statement in part due to supply chain shortages.

A filing from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation shows an interior remodel was set to start back in June and finish in April of 2024. The project was slated to cost $3,422,216.

KSAT 12 reached out to Lucio for an updated comment one week after the first episode aired via email, text and phone call. As of Sunday night, KSAT 12 has yet to hear back.

Rios said in the week following the first episode of this story, she shopped at the Las Palmas location twice. She said on both trips, the store looked more organized, she saw employees checking through products on the shelves and couldn’t find any food past its “best if used by” date for herself.

She said it’s the first time she hasn’t come across food with older use-by dates since she started shopping there.

“I went by there and there’s workers that are looking and going to the counters where the meat is and going ahead and looking and placing them in some kind of nice order,” Rios said. “I felt a lot of optimism because it was a first step. We haven’t had first steps.”

She smiled wide while telling KSAT 12 about her grocery trips this week. It’s something she said might feel small to the San Antonio community but is a huge step for her own store.

“They are making small steps,” Rios said. “But we still need so much more.”

Peña said the community and the neighborhood association are aware of the ongoing concerns.

Neighbors sent KSAT 12 a photo of a flyer that was handed out at a community meeting calling on the concerns about H-E-B and encouraging residents to reach out to the corporate office.

“This store is our neighborhood store that is used not only by our families but also by our local teachers and businesses,” the letter reads. “We should all be concerned about the quality of choice we have.”

Peña said the neighborhood association is ready to take action and advocate for Westwood Square.

“I want to believe H-E-B that they want to do the right thing for this community. But the inequalities in this community, that really has to change,” Peña said. “We’re going to continue to have meetings with the neighborhood association with community members that want to speak up.”

In its original statement to KSAT 12, H-E-B said any customers who have concerns about their store or if they want to request a specific item be stocked on shelves can submit a note to the store management.

About the Authors

Avery Everett is a news reporter and multimedia journalist at KSAT 12 News. Avery is a Philadelphia native. If she’s not at the station, she’s either on a hiking or biking trail. A lover of charcuterie boards and chocolate chip cookies, Avery’s also looking forward to eating her way through San Antonio, one taco shop at a time!

Gavin Nesbitt is an award-winning photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He won a Lone Star Emmy, a Regional Murrow, a Texas Broadcast News Award, a Headliners Foundation Silver Showcase Award and 2 Telly Awards for his work covering the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

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