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City of Petersburg 2023 Situation Analysis Report


VCE-596-76NP (VCE-1175-76NP)

Authors as Published

UNIT Extension Staff- Katrina Kirby, Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences & Unit Coordinator, Vacant, 4-H Youth Development, Vacant, Adult Family Nutrition Program Assistant, Sheryl Clayton, 4-H Family Nutrition Program Assistant Alma DeLeon, Unit Administrative Assistant

Map of the City of Petersburg.

Summary of community issues and Extension office response

Priority Issue Planned Unit Response
Health & Wellness for Across the Lifespan Conduct educational programs on health and wellness at schools, workplaces, and communities. Utilize digital platforms and social media to disseminate information on healthy living.
Parenting and Child Development Offer parenting classes and workshops that cover topics such as child development, effective discipline, and communication. Promote positive discipline techniques that emphasize communication, empathy, and setting appropriate boundaries.
Positive Youth Development Provide opportunities for the development of essential life skills such as communication, problem-solving, decision-making, and critical thinking.
Programming focus on self-stainability. Partner with community organizations and develop workshops focused on gardening and food preservation.
Economic Health for Personal and Family Finances Partner with churches and civic organizations to develop workshops focused on money management and utilize tax experts to help with lack of family resources.
Volunteer & Community Resources There is a need for more programs which means more volunteers need to be vetted and trained to work with clientele.
Housing Affordability and Quality Support programs that help low and moderate-income families achieve homeownership. Provide education on financial literacy and homeownership and renter responsibilities.


During the 2023 calendar year faculty and staff of the Petersburg Unit of Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) conducted a comprehensive Situation Analysis of the Unit. The process was led by the Petersburg City Extension Faculty and Staff. Input was solicited and obtained from the Extension Leadership Council (ELC) leaders from the city, volunteers who work on behalf of VCE, and clients and cooperators we work with on a regular basis. In conjunction with VCE Qualtrics survey results, we also reviewed the 2023 Community Health Assessment provided by the Cameron Foundation. This input represents an effective cross-section of Petersburg residents and generated reliable information to base our conclusions on.

VCE Faculty and staff used the standard Qualtrics survey with questions specifically geared for our urban unit. As a unit we identified opportunities for getting the surveys completed. The surveys were delivered electronically through the Qualtrics system, printed surveys were delivered by mail to a few people or in person to those who do not have or use internet services, informal interviews with selected stakeholders, residents and leaders were also conducted. The findings from the unit profile and the surveys were analyzed and priority issues were identified and ranked. Unit profile data came primarily from the VCE Data Commons, U.S. Census data and other information found on the Situational Analysis web page on the VCE Intranet. Further clarification and historical data were based on information found on the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Resource Website, the Voices for Virginia's Children Publication, U.S. Department of Labor-Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Virginia Department of Health and the U.S. Census Bureau-Virginia Employment Commission Community Profile for the city of Petersburg.

As we conclude the 2023 Situation Analysis, it is certain that the process of understanding our community needs is ongoing. Priorities identified within this document only outline some of the key issues our community is facing. As emerging issues become more apparent and our communities continue to grow and to diversify, new priorities will arise. Understanding community is a dynamic process. Accordingly, Extension programs are poised to address new challenges with eagerness, commitment, and innovation.

Unit Profile

The independent city of Petersburg consists of 22.9 square miles of land and is in southcentral Virginia. Petersburg is bordered on the north by the Appomattox River. The city is strategically located at the junction of Interstates 85 and 95. Petersburg is 23 miles southof Virginia’s state capitol, Richmond and 125 miles south of Washington, D.C. Petersburg is one of the oldest settlements in the Commonwealth, dating back to the establishment of Fort Henry in 1646. According to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau, the population in Petersburg is 33,457. Population growth in Petersburg has declined from April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2022 by -0.2%.

Throughout this document, the indication of the Tri-Cities area includes the cities of Petersburg, Colonial Heights and Hopewell. District 19 refers to the counties of Dinwiddie, Prince George, Sussex, Surry, Greensville/Emporia and the city of Petersburg.

Themedian age of Petersburg residents is 37.2 years. In 2020, 7.4% of the population was under the age of 5, 22.1% were under the age of 18, and 16.9% were persons 65 years old and over. The median age for females is 39.6 and the median age for males is 35.4.

According to the 2022 U.S. Census Bureau updates, Virginia Employment Commission, the racial composition in Petersburg is 16.6% white, and 83.4% nonwhite. Of the 83.4% nonwhite, 77.3% is Black or African American. The imbalance of racial composition will continue. White population will continue to decline in both absolute and percentage terms. This decline is predicted to be a result of natural decrease and continued out-migration. The City’s population will continue to be majority Black or African American. The combination of aging baby boom generation and improved health care for the elderly will result in an increase in the median age nationally. The number of City residents is projected to increase to 33,394 by July 1, 2022, an increase since the late 1980’s.

According to the 2022 updated figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau, 22.2 % of all residents in Petersburg, live in poverty. In 2022, the median household income in Petersburg is $46,930 whereas Virginia’s median household income is $87,249. While the citywide median household income has increased 15% since 2005; it remains lower than that of neighboring jurisdictions of Colonial Heights and Hopewell. As of August 2022, the percentage of school children receiving free or reduced lunch in Petersburg for the 2022-2023 school year was 100%. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a non-pricing meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas.

In comparison to other cities, Petersburg stands out with its unemployment rate of 5.3 percent in October 2023. This rate is higher than the average for the state of Virginia 3.0. For context, Arlington County boasts the lowest unemployment rate at 2.2 percent during the same period. The disparity between these two cities highlights the economic variations across different regions in the state.

Data gathered from the 2020 census indicates that premature deaths before the age of 75 stand at 21,400 per 100,000 people, in contrast to Virginia's rate of 6,700. The percentage of individuals in poor or fair health is 23%, while Virginia's is 12%. Adult obesity is reported at 47%, exceeding Virginia's rate of 32%. Sexually transmitted infections are notably higher at 1563.2 per 100,000 compared to Virginia's 479.9. Limited access to healthy foods is documented at 13%, uninsured clinical care at 9%, and excessive drinking at 13%, with Virginia's corresponding figures being 9% and 7%, respectively.

The 2020 crime rate in Petersburg, VA is 425 ( crime index), which is 1.7 times higher than the U.S. average. It was higher than in 94.7% U.S. cities. The 2020 Petersburg crime rate fell by 9% compared to 2019. The number of homicides stood at 24 - an increase of 5 compared to 2019.

According to the data, cancer was the No. 1 cause of premature deaths among those under the age of 75. Of the 542 Petersburg deaths classified as premature, 202 of them — 37% — were cancer-related. Heart disease was next, followed by accidents, diabetes and assaults. Individuals living in poverty are more likely to experience an increase in health issues, due to lack of finances and health insurance. This has an impact on the morbidity and mortality rate in the community.

For the 2023/2024 school year Petersburg City Public Schools contains 7 schools and 4,178 students. Minority enrollment is 97% of the student body (majority Black), which is more than the Virginia public school average of 54% (majority Black and Hispanic). Also, 72.7% of students are economically disadvantaged. The school district's graduation rate of 81% has increased from 74% over five school years.

Below is the information provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension’s data commons. This information is identified in the following categories by Agricultural, Health, Education, Business and Employment.

Table of information provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension’s data commons.
Continue. Table of Information provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension’s data commons..
Cont. Table of information provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension’s data commons.
Cont. Table of information provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension’s data commons.
Cont. Table of information provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension’s data commons.
Cont. Table of information provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension’s data commons.
Cont. Table of information provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension’s data commons.

Community and Resident Perspectives

The City of Petersburg VCE Situation Analysis pinpointed concerns through predominantly citywide online and written surveys. In alignment with the unit profile's identified issue areas, the VCE staff and the ELC enlisted a varied cross-section of community residents, stakeholders, local government representatives, as well as private and public partners to partake in the survey. A total of 125 surveys were distributed, with 27 participants responding through both surveys and interviews. The key concerns highlighted included:

Key Programming for the next 5 years

  • Health & Wellness for Across the Lifespan
  • Parenting and Child Development
  • Positive Youth Development
  • Youth & Teen Activities
  • Economic Health for Personal and Family Finances
  • Volunteer and Community Service Training
  • Housing Affordability and Quality

Community Issues & Future Programming to Address Community Issues

Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan

The need to educate the general public about healthy affordable nutrition and food choices, chronic diseases and prevention and mental wellness are essential to the well-being of youth and adults. All are state and local concerns. This is an issue because according to the Crater Health District the top two leading causes of death were heart disease and cancer. Petersburg has the largest number of WIC (Women Infants and Children) participants as compared to all other localities in the Crater District. The aging population (persons 65 and over) is one of the fastest growing populations in the United States. As members of society are living longer, the need for elder care, as well as elder health and economics will become more important.

VCE’S Role in addressing this issue: VCE is providing low-income residents with the SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program-Education) nutrition Programs. Since 2005, VCE has an Adult and Youth Family Nutrition Program Assistant to increase the resources in the community. Family and Consumer Sciences and 4-H in collaboration with the local government and organizations provides programming to help address these needs. We will highlight the significance of maintaining an active lifestyle in older age through educational programs and promote social engagement to prevent isolation and loneliness among seniors.

Parenting and Child Development

Parent education is a need that has been identified by the Petersburg Department of Social Services and the District 19 court system. This is due to the number of residents involved in child abuse and neglect cases, as well as the number of residents filing for custody of children. Adequate parenting skills are needed by all parents or by individuals that find themselves in a parenting role. These individuals need to understand the ages and stages of development and how to appropriately discipline children. In 2020, Petersburg had one of the highest rates of live births per 1,000 females under the age of 20 in the Tri-Cities area, District 19 and the State. Petersburg rate was 78.0 live births per 1,000 females between the ages of 10-19 far exceeding the State of Virginia’s rate of 18.6 live births per 1,000 females between the ages of 10-19.

VCE’S Role in Addressing This Issue: VCE is already addressing this issue. The Positive Parenting Curriculum is being utilized to teach parents effective parenting skills. VCE has been collaborating with the Petersburg Department of Social Services, Fort Lee, and community partner’s in conducting 32 weeks (8 weeks each, 4 times a year) in parenting education. Teen parenting workshops, presentations and short courses are being conducted by VCE through a partnership with the Petersburg Health Department, Resource Mothers program.

Positive Youth Development & Life Skills/Decision Making for Youth

Communication, teamwork, problem solving and managing resources are important life skills needed by today’s youth.Without these skills, youth will not be able to be totally self-sufficient. There are very few educational arenas where youth can still acquire these skills. This is an issue because currently there are not many researched based youth development programs that focuses on life skills development in Petersburg other than 4-H. Some of the other youth development programs in the city are focusing mainly on recreational activities.

VCE’S Role in Addressing This Issue: VCE is addressing this issue by providing yearlong 4-H Youth Enrichment Programs, such as: Clothing and Construction, Nutrition andWellness, Character Education, Personal Financial Literacy Child Care Training, Career and Workforce Development, Leadership and Personal Development and Decision Making/Problem Solving/Goal Setting Techniques. 4-H provides volunteer training for youth and adults in the area of leadership development.

Youth and Teen Activities

After School and Community Service activities are needed to prevent latch-key situations and to increase the social and cognitive skills of youth. Having these activities will help youth find an alternative to undesirable activities which may result in juvenile delinquency problems. This is an issue because according to the 2010 Supported Alternatives for our Valued Youth (SAVY) Needs Assessment, there is a limited scale of promising practice programs for youth in Petersburg. There are many children and teens in the Petersburg area that need services to help them develop positive behaviors. Although there are programs available, there are few research-based models.

VCE’S Role in Addressing This Issue: VCE is addressing this issue by providing After-School programs in the schools, community recreations, organizations and community clubs. As a part of these programs, the youth are involved in community service activities and projects. These programs are led by VCE Staff and trained 4-H Adult Volunteers.

Housing Affordability and Quality

Securing safe, affordable housing on a limited budget is difficult. Individual and families who do not have the financial resources necessary to afford adequate housing usually resort to sub- standard housing or homelessness. Home maintenance and cleanliness is low on the priority list of an individual or family trying to survive by meeting their basic needs. This is an issue because in Petersburg the 2022 U.S. Census Bureau Report stated there are 17,941 housing units in Petersburg, in which 33.9% are multi-unit structures. Of the housing units in the city, 82% of the units are occupied and 18% are vacant. Out of the occupied units, 63% are renter occupied.

VCE’S Role in Addressing This Issue: VCE is involved through collaboration with the Petersburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority (Family Services) to provide housing residents with housekeeping related workshops. The potential to provide city residents with home maintenance information is great and an increase in resources would be necessary to further these efforts.

Economic Health for Personal and Family Finances

Financial Management to include, credit counseling, debt management, consumerism and bankruptcy is needed to assist low-income residents in effectively managing their financial resources. This is an issue because in 2018-2022, 22.2% of all residents in Petersburg live in poverty. As of August 2022, 100% of school children are receiving free or reduced lunch in Petersburg and the unemployment rate for Petersburg is 5.3% whereas the Virginia is 3.4%.

VCE’S Role in Addressing This Issue: VCE is currently addressing this issue, with the help of many Master Financial Education Volunteers, by providing financial counseling and consumerism programs to its residents. Currently, the aging population has been targeted by VCE in the area of consumerism to include scams and identity theft. VCE is also offering a home study course for residents in the area of financial management. Residents are also given one-on-one financial counseling by a VCE agent or trained VCE volunteer.

Volunteer and Community Service Training

Several residents and key leaders who submitted the survey indicated a need for volunteer and community service trainings for teens. The teens in return will be able to give back to their communities, under the leadership of a trained 4-H Adult Volunteer. Teens and volunteers will be able to provide programs for youth and adults, and foster family-oriented opportunities. The Unit Profile data indicated a need for continued efforts to address problems of teenage pregnancy, school dropouts, youth-at-risk and crime. Training in community service could provide opportunities for youth, adults and families to address these issues.

VCE’S Role in Addressing This Issue: VCE is collaborating with the Petersburg Office on Youth Program, Petersburg Department of Social Services, churches, YMCA and the Petersburg Parks and Leisure Services to provide positive teen leadership trainings for teens in Petersburg. 4-H has implemented Leadership and Citizenship Programs in the community to encourage teens to become productive and contributing members of society.


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Publication Date

March 28, 2024