CHESTERFIELD – Sabra, maker of hummus dips, with a processing plant at the Walthall Industrial Plant, has launched a campaign and challenged others to...

CHESTERFIELD – Sabra, maker of hummus dips, with a processing plant at the Walthall Industrial Plant, has launched a campaign and challenged others to join in efforts to alleviate the effects of food deserts.

“Plants With a Purpose” has begun with a pilot program in the company’s backyard in, Richmond City and Chesterfield County.

The company established an on-site garden and is coordinating with Renew Richmond, a nonprofit dedicated to urban agriculture in underserved communities, to create community education programming.

Food deserts are defined by the USDA as neighborhoods and towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, affordable food. It is estimated that more than 23 million Americans live in affected areas.

In announcing the campaign to employees, Sabra CEO Shali Shalit-Shoval said that in comparison to areas of similar size, Richmond has been described as the largest food desert in the country. She said the effort is a long-term commitment.

“We expect to grow ‘Plants With a Purpose’ each year,” Shalit-Shoval said. “Our objective is to begin at home, with our employees, their families, and the communities where we conduct business, and then expand our reach geographically.”

Sabra has set a goal to be a catalyst to bring more attention to the cause plaguing cites and stretching into suburbs, according to the National Nutritional Association.

“The solution to the challenge of Food Deserts is multifaceted, but not complex,” said M. Ray McKinnie, interim dean of Virginia State University College of Agriculture, which initiated a food-desert study and associated documentary raising awareness for this issue. Bringing vegetables into an urban area is not enough. Access to quality and affordable produce must be supported by relevant education and community connection,” said McKinnie. He added that the Sabra initiative helps meet these needs locally and raises awareness nationally.