The maker of one of the best-selling hummus products announced Thursday a partnership with Virginia State University to develop an urban garden designed to help address disparity in access to healthy foods.
Sabra Dipping Co. LLC, which makes the Mediterranean-style spread at a factory in Chesterfield County, will work with the university to turn a 2.2-acre parcel near VSU into a food and agricultural hub to promote nutrition and food education.
The Summerseat Urban Garden Project aims to bring the community together by providing a recreational and productive green space. Preliminary plans call for a possible incubator kitchen — which would teach the public how to grow, prepare and preserve food — and for a farmers market space.
Summerseat is a house built around 1860 located near VSU.
“[Virginia State University] 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 Jewel Bronaugh, the former executive director of the university’s Center for Agricultural Research, Engagement and Outreach.
According to a study from Virginia Tech and VSU, more than 17 percent of people in Virginia are affected by limited food access or food deserts — areas without ready access to healthy, affordable foods. In 2012, Richmond was identified as the largest food desert in the country for a city its size, the study found.
“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.”
To help communities in food deserts, Sabra also began its Plants With a Purpose initiative in 2016. For instance, Sabra continues to operate an organic workshare garden that opened that year next to its factory. Employees can get fresh produce from the garden for volunteering to help cultivate it.
Sabra also is providing tuition assistance for students of VSU’s urban agriculture certification course, whose curriculum provides information about growing produce in an urban environment. Students will be able to apply their skills in Sabra’s 340-square-foot garden at the plant.