US (VA): Plants with a Purpose supports urban ag at VSU

As an extension of its Plants with a Purpose program, Sabra Dipping Company, LLC (Sabra) will partner with Virginia State University (VSU) to assist in the development of an educational urban garden at Summerseat. The Summerseat Urban Garden Project will transform a 2.2-acre historic land parcel into a food and agricultural hub designed to address food security issues within local schools and communities, enhance nutrition and food education, and bring people together. Sabra’s Plants with a Purpose initiative was launched as a pilot in late 2016 to address the needs of communities living in food deserts. Richmond, VA has been called the largest “food desert” in America.

“We believe everyone should have ready and affordable access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Eugenio Perrier, Sabra’s Chief Marketing Officer. “The most meaningful way to create change is through hands-on, community driven collaboration. Through Plants with a Purpose, we aim to bolster the efforts of local partners who are literally planting seeds for the future. The Summerseat community garden will bring together neighbors of all ages to create fresh connections and draw sustenance from the ground.”
 
“Four years after publishing the ground-breaking study, ‘Food Deserts in Virginia,’ VSU continues its commitment to raise awareness of the commonwealth’s food security issues and to identify ways to provide fresh, affordable food to all residents,” said Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, the former Executive Director of VSU’s Center for Agricultural Research, Engagement and Outreach. “We are grateful that Sabra Dipping Company shares a similar commitment, and we’re confident that together we will be able to create a recreational, historical and productive green space at Summerseat that will provide maximum benefits to the public.”
 
In addition to the Summerseat collaboration, Sabra is providing tuition assistance for students of VSU’s Urban Agriculture Certification Course, which aims to increase competence and marketability for a career in urban agriculture. Students will have an opportunity to apply their skills in Sabra’s 340 square foot employee workshare garden installed on the Sabra campus in Colonial Heights.
 
“This collaboration with VSU’s Summerseat Urban Garden Project enables us to build on our efforts to enhance access of fresh foods in communities where we work and live,” said Chandler Gotschlich, Sabra’s Associate Director Marketing Global Brands and Plants with a Purpose team lead. “VSU has been instrumental in bringing awareness to the needs of the local community and creating public private partnerships to help fill in the gaps. We are thrilled to be involved in these efforts and look forward to playing a long-term role.”
 
Last year VSU received from former Gov. Terry McAuliffe the inaugural Outstanding State Stewardship Award for its preservation of Summerseat, an historic house built around 1860 near present-day VSU. A one-room house with modest Italianate detailing and a raised brick basement, Summerseat is among the last remaining dwellings of Ettrick, a small African-American community established along the Appomattox River in the mid-19th century. Its name is derived from local lore, which says that the structure previously served as a county judge’s courtroom during the summer months. Both Summerseat and Ettrick are eligible for listing in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
 
“Food deserts,” as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are neighborhoods and towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, affordable food (specifically fruits and vegetables). It is estimated more than 23 million Americans live in impacted areas. At least 17 percent of Virginia’s population is affected by limited food access or food deserts.

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