University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government Announces 2011 Public Policy Challenge Winners

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Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | | 215-898-6460March 24, 2011

PHILADELPHIA – Team Virtual Market Philly has won the Fels Institute of Government 2011 Public Policy Challenge. The annual student competition at the University of Pennsylvania brings graduate students from different disciplines together to devise practical solutions to public policy challenges facing Philadelphia.

Rachel Cahill of Fels, Jennifer Ralston of the School of Social Policy and Practice, Natalie Robles of the City and Regional Planning Program at PennDesign, and Lise Wagnac of Bryn Mawr College comprise the winning team.

Team Virtual Market Philly won the top prize of $5,000 for its proposal to improve public health and lower obesity rates in Philadelphia by expanding access to healthy food.

The winning concept addresses the issue of “food deserts,” underserved neighborhoods with economic and physical barriers to accessing healthy foods, through the creation of an online grocery store with neighborhood library branches as designated grocery delivery and pick-up sites.

The team plans to share $2,500 of the prize money and donate the remaining half of the prize to an organization of its choice already engaged in tackling the food desert issue.

“This year’s competition included a number of innovative and practical policy proposals that could help strengthen the Philadelphia region,” said David Thornburgh, executive director of the Fels Institute of Government. “We congratulate all of our competitors on their hard work and dedication to the community and thank our esteemed judging panel of civic leaders for another successful competition.”

Guided by workshops and mentors, 10 teams of nearly 50 students competed in this year’s competition.  Each team chose a research-based policy proposal and crafted an integrated campaign plan.

A judging panel of Pennsylvania civic and governmental leaders selected the winning team during the final round of the Challenge held March 20 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.    

Additional information about the Public Policy Challenge is available at