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Sabra and VSU Tackle Food Security Issues Through Construction of Urban Garden at Ettrick’s Summerseat Property

Monday, June 11, about 15 Sabra Dipping Company employees joined staff and faculty at Virginia State University (VSU) to build the first phase of the Summerseat Urban Garden Project. The project is an initiative of VSU’s Sustainable and Urban Agriculture Cooperative  Extension Program and part of Sabra’s Plants with a Purpose program, which addresses the needs of communities living in food deserts.  

The Summerseat Urban Garden Project is designed to transform the 2.2-acre historic land parcel known as Summerseat into a food and agricultural hub to address food security issues within local schools and communities, enhance nutrition and food education, and bring people together. Summerseat is located on the VSU campus at the corner of Chesterfield Avenue and River Road, across from Ettrick Elementary School and next to VSU’s Multipurpose Center.

The volunteers, who also included several members of the Ettrick community, constructed 10 raised bed gardens that included shorter ones accessible to children and those in wheelchairs and waist-high beds, providing easy access for those who find it difficult to bend over. The beds will hold a wide variety of crops throughout the growing season. The purpose of the raised beds gardens is twofold: to teach members of the community how to successfully grow their own healthy food, as well as to harvest the crops for donation to food distribution centers for residents in and around Ettrick who have low access issues to fresh and nutritious food.

Later phases of the Summerseat Urban Garden Project may include a certified kitchen, nutrition and cooking classes, the development of a historical museum within the Summerseat building and K-12 educational programs

Four years after publishing the ground-breaking study, ‘Food Deserts in Virginia,’ VSU continues to identify ways to raise awareness of the commonwealth’s food security issues and to provide fresh, affordable food to all residents. Sabra Dipping Company shares a similar commitment and believes that everyone should have ready and affordable access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Both entities are confident that together they 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 Sustainable 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.

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