Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, transformation director at Pick n Pay and trustee of Feed the Nation Foundation took top honours in her category at the SA Jewish Report Achievers Awards for the leading role she has played in feeding the nation during the pandemic.
Ackerman-Berman was awarded the Europcar Women in Leadership Award, an accolade that seeks to honour the leadership, impact, achievements, success and overall contribution of distinctive women in business or in the broader South African community.
Ackerman-Berman was selected out of 24 other leading women nominees doing extraordinary impactful work across the nation from science and medicine to music, art and community development.
In accepting her award during the virtual ceremony, Ackerman-Berman said she was deeply moved, and acknowledged the extraordinary work being done across the nation by her fellow nominees and other award recipients, which included Professor Barry Schoub, Professor Cheryl Cohen and Professor Mervyn Mer. 99-year-old solicitor, Sir Sydney Kentridge – who represented Nelson Mandela in the Treason Trial, as well as Steve Biko and many anti-apartheid activists in South Africa – was recognised with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“This year has been a terribly difficult time for each and every one of us, but it’s often during the worst of times, when we’re facing hardship, troubles and challenges, that the best in people come out,” she said. “I would like to thank our unbelievable teams on the shop floor, the frontline staff who kept our stores open, kept our staff safe, and kept feeding our communities.”
She went on to say that over the past eight months, in what started out as the Feed the Nation campaign, over 900 Pick n Pay stores and Boxer Superstores sourced, packed and distributed food hampers to those in need across the country.
In accepting her award, Ackerman-Berman thanked her colleagues for allowing her to “step up and step in” in areas of the business such as operations and distribution, which played a significant part in ensuring she was able to get the Feed the Nation campaign off the ground with such speed.
“What these extraordinary times gave us was the chance to re-group and look at how we could do things differently. It gave us the chance to work together to do the most important work of all – to feed the nation.”
Partnering with funders, Pick n Pay customers, suppliers and welfare organisations, Feed the Nation has raised over R98 million and provided over 23 million meals in the form of food hampers to date. This collective effort has not only helped feed schoolchildren, but also shelters, old-age homes, orphanages and vulnerable communities during this crisis.
“We are still urging customers to join us in feeding the nation. A donation of just R21 at our till points can help feed someone one meal for a week.”
Each food hamper – valued at over R500 – generally contains essential grocery items such as maize meal, rice, soup mix, flour, soya mince, cooking oil, salt and soap and fresh vegetables, and is expected to provide food support for a family of four for up to one month.
Since the first week of April, Feed the Nation has supported 31 685 learners through the help of the Pick n Pay School Club – a network that reaches over two million learners annually with curriculum-aligned education material to support learner development.
Now a registered NPO, the Feed the Nation Foundation has worked with 90 local organisations, including the Yad Mordechai Trust, the Brian Habana Foundation and the Kolisi Foundation.
The Springbok captain, Siya Kolisi, had this to say on hearing about the award: “I want to say thank you and your teams at Pick n Pay and Boxer. With your help we were able to travel 16,000 kms during lockdown, and thanks to your trucks being wherever we went, we could reach as many people as possible.”
The Feed the Nation Foundation’s latest initiative has been to support child-headed households as many begin to face the aftermath of the pandemic. More than 3000child-headed households nationally have been identified to receive food hampers, valued at just over R2.1 million in total. Completion of the handover to these families is expected to be completed by mid-December 2020 before schools close for the holidays.
Comments from her peers on the award presented to Ackerman-Berman:
Hazel Levine, Head of Jewish Community Services in Cape town. “She has the most incredible determination; she will put herself on the line for just about anything.”
Marc Lubner, Chairman of Afrika Tikkun and the Smile Foundation: “What many don’t know is that Suzanne contracted the virus herself, but no one would have ever known as she continued to operate [in isolation]. She never prioritised herself, everyone else came first.”
Published in the print edition of the December 2020/January 2021 issue.
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