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The Virginia Natural Gas Foundation celebrates Earth Day by presenting $34,000 grant to Norfolk State University to assist in waterway restoration and food inequity

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – April 21, 2023 – The Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) Foundation has committed $34,000 to assist a local Historically Black College and University combat coastal erosion and bring awareness to student food inequity. 

The energy company's nonprofit recently presented a grant to Norfolk State University in support of two ongoing initiatives to help with restoration efforts along the Elizabeth River by creating a living shoreline and to expose students to the science of growing and harvesting their own food.

“At the Virginia Natural Gas Foundation, we have a vested interest in conservation and environmental issues that we all face in the Hampton Roads region,” said Robert Duvall, president of Virginia Natural Gas and a member of the foundation’s Board of Directors. “How appropriate that on Earth Day the foundation presented the grant, which will allow the university to focus on restoring waterways and protecting our natural coastal habitats as well. This grant will also allow the university to focus on environmental issues while meeting the demand to educate more students who will make sure environmental justice is an integral part of whatever they choose to do in their careers.”

According to Dr. Stephen Via, assistant professor of biology at Norfolk State University, the grant will help in research and service projects aimed at restoring the nearby Elizabeth River waterways and engage the campus and community in the efforts. The grant will also provide students access to new community gardens, where they will learn about the growing cycle of edible plants while learning about food insecurities.

“We can’t thank the Virginia Natural Gas Foundation enough for this grant and appreciate everything they have done for us as we move toward restoring one of our most valued treasures, the Elizabeth River, and help us get more of our students involved in the environmental sciences,” said Dr. Via. “While $34,000 might not be a large grant to some, it will help more than they know and will go a long way as we continue our efforts here at Norfolk State.”

Specifically, students at the university will take part in projects aimed at restoring the “living shoreline” along the Elizabeth River by propagating sea grasses with more than 500 plants, and oyster reef restoration events. The goal is to expand the program to develop a campus-wide environmental justice initiative that will engage more of the campus and local community.

“We have observed a lack of awareness in our students around environmental issues and see a lack of African Americans in the environmental science field at large,” said Via. “Our goal through this grant is to help change these conditions, while having a tangible positive impact on our local community, through on-the-ground projects focused on shoreline restoration and native planting to help manage stormwater.”

The grant will also help teach students about food insecurities and inequality by exposing them to how to grow and harvest their own food. Through the grant, the university plans on building raised-bed gardens for student use.

“We want to plant the seeds of knowledge in our students,” added Via. “Many have faced food insecurity and did not know where their next meal was coming from. Also, since most of our students come from an urban background, this is all new to them, so this grant will allow us to teach the satisfaction of growing, harvesting and eating the fruits…and vegetables of their labor.”

To learn more about Virginia Natural Gas’ commitment to our community, visit

About Virginia Natural Gas

Virginia Natural Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Virginia Natural Gas provides clean, safe, reliable and affordable natural gas service to more than 300,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in southeast Virginia. Consistently ranked in the top quartile for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates, the company also has been recognized by the Virginia Department of Energy (Virginia Energy) and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association for its safety, innovation, environmental stewardship, community outreach and educational programs, and has been named Local Distribution Company of the Year five times since 2015. The company has been ranked by its business customers as one of the most Trusted Business Partners in the utility industry according to Cogent Reports, and a Top Workplaces in Hampton Roads by Inside Business. For more information, visit and connect with the company on FacebookTwitter,  Instagram, LinkedIn and Nextdoor.

About Southern Company Gas
Southern Company Gas is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.4 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in four states with approximately 600,000 retail customers through its companies that market natural gas. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate pipelines and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit

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Rick DelaHaya
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