Cans With Purpose fundraises for food parcels

Lizo Madinga of Afrika Tikkun and Brad Stern elbow-bump in Mfuleni during the first week of lockdown

Like many South Africans, Brad Stern of Cape Town tuned into President Ramaphosa’s first COVID-19 related address to the nation on 15 March.

He was particularly struck by the following words of the President’s speech: “Those who have resources, those who are healthy, need to assist those who are in need and who are vulnerable.”

Brad founded and owns Superiate, a two-year-old marketing agency that specialises in nationwide youth marketing for numerous brands (such as Microsoft, DSTV ad Telkom Mobile), and which is dedicated to youth empowerment. The company works with the Department of Basic Education and has completed more than 600 activations at schools, reaching 400 000 learners throughout South Africa.

As a result of this work, Brad was already familiar with the government’s school feeding scheme (the National School Nutrition Programme) which provides almost 10 million children with a daily school meal. For many, this is the only source of food received for the whole day.

With this knowledge, and the President’s words echoing in his head that night, Brad knew he had to do something about the devastating effect that school closures would have on child hunger.

The very next morning, Brad and his brother, Jared, who also works at Superiate and lives in Johannesburg, devised the initiative and Cans with Purpose was born. They created a basic website and spread the word on social media among family and friends. At the end of the first day, they had raised R25 000. Each brother in his respective city bought canned goods to the value of the donated amount and distributed them at two primary schools each day so that children would have food when schools closed. They were told by principals that without these donations, they did not know how some of these children would be able to eat.

They realised that they needed to aim bigger. Brad recounts, “We realised we had a big problem on our hands from day one. I recall Jared and I having a conversation that starvation will kill more people in South Africa than Covid-19.” Soon after, Brad chatted to Suzanne Ackerman; subsequently both Pick n Pay and Boxer stores came onboard and donated. Through Suzanne, Brad then connected with Marc Lubner of Afrika Tikkun. Brad says, “He runs the amazing organisation. I was uncomfortable with money coming into my bank account; Superiate is an agency, not an NGO or charity. Marc was inspiring on the phone call, telling me about the work Afrika Tikkun does and I knew straight away I wanted any money or cans donated to Cans With purpose to go to this amazing organisation.”

Brad then changed the banking details to those of Afrika Tikkun so that all Cans with Purpose donations could be distributed via them— and then donations really increased. Three weeks after that, R350 000 had been raised which has been enough to feed 50 000 people through 7500 food care parcels during the lockdown (as of 16 April).
Cans with Purpose’s next goal is to reach R1 million’s worth of donations by the end of lockdown in order to feed 100 000 more people. The initiative has also generated more than R2.5 million’s worth of PR value coverage with no budget! Brad credits this to his network of friends: “I’m fortunate to have some amazing friends who have some great social media followings. So, I got on the phone with some of them and before we knew it we had the likes of Lee-Anne Liebenberg and her husband Nicky van der Walt, Siv Ngesi, Gareth Cliff, Francois Pienaar, Claudia Henkel… just to name a few supporting us with their time and sharing on social media.”

After this lockdown, Brad wants to extend even further by asking South Africans to donate cans and other essential items at retailers, banks and shopping centres. Cans with Purpose will partner with school principals to help distribute to the most vulnerable.

Brad attributes this project to how he was raised: “A combination of a Jewish upbringing and my family upbringing have inspired me to get something like this off the ground. …This has been a hugely rewarding experience. I wish I could name all of the Jewish people and companies that got behind us. Some preferred to stay anonymous, but those that are listed on the website as donating partners, I insisted and had to twist most of their arms for me to show their brand logos or family names.”

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By Jaime Uranovsky

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