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Franklin SP2 Social Innovation Prize winners to tackle food deserts

Franklin Prize award winners with judges

Authored by: Jacquie Posey

Faculty & Research, Student Life


Philadelphia is the fifth largest city in America, its former capital, and a cultural mecca that has become a destination for tourists the world over. But according to the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit working to eradicate hunger, the city’s First Congressional District, which includes parts of North and South Philly, is the second hungriest in the nation.

Lower North Philadelphia in the First Congressional District is an urban food desert, which is defined as an area with little to no access to healthy food options. Nearly 20 percent of households are “low wealth.”

A team of Penn students has formulated an innovative pilot program called “Fresh Box” to address the problem of food deserts. The program would enable low-income residents who live in food deserts to order healthy food options online at a reasonable price. After placing food orders at conveniently located kiosks, groceries would be delivered to the residents’ homes or to lockers in accessible locations like community centers.

On May 12, Fresh Box won the inaugural Franklin SP2 Social Innovation Prize, defeating five other student-led teams from Penn. Students presented their proposals at a live public “pitch session” held in the Pennovation Center. Penn’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy (CHIP) and the School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) hosted the competition.

The Franklin Prize is awarded to the student team that develops the most promising and innovative project to address one of the “SP2 Penn Top 10 Social Justice & Policy Issues.” Through this multimodal initiative, experts from SP2 analyze some of the most crucial social justice and policy issues in the nation.

The prize was established by Julie Franklin, a member of the SP2 Board of Overseers, and her family, and came with a $5,000 cash award. The Franklin family was so pleased with the inaugural launch and winning project that the donors have pledged to award Fresh Box an additional $10,000 in research and development funds.

The Fresh Box team’s plan to address urban food deserts impressed the panel of judges (which included former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter), who grilled team members about the viability of their plan’s public and private partnerships, as well as food ordering and delivery logistics.

Read the full story on the Penn Current here…