Help feed families during lockdown, without leaving your couch

Help feed families during lockdown, without leaving your couch

Tshediso Moteane, a member of social development in Johannesburg helped by Maphepo Lebogo to deliver packages to some housholds in Meadowlands as part of SDI Force’s programme to deliver needed goods to in need housholds. Picture: Neil McCartney

Supplier Development Initiatives (SDI) Force is leveraging its connections to SMMEs and other businesses to feed the elderly and informally employed workers during the lockdown.

While some are frustrated at being cooped up and not being able to walk their dogs, many of the country’s poor are not sure how they are going to feed themselves and their families for the remaining 15 days of the 21-day lockdown.

In Meadowlands, as is the case with most townships and informal settlements, social distancing is simply not an option. Regulations such as staying indoors and reducing the number of people travelling in vehicles are not possible. And life has never been more challenging.

This is why initiatives such as Supplier Development Initiatives (SDI) Force is imperative in helping historically disadvantaged people survive the Covid-19 assault, and lockdown. SDI Force was initially set up to assist Johannesburg’s homeless population, by providing food and hygiene packs.

The scope has now been broadened to include the elderly and informally employed workers, such as waste collectors, car guards and hawkers, and a partnership with Unity Values has provided for smooth logistics, accounting and peace of mind.

Unity Values purchases food and hygiene products for those in need through an auditable online fundraising initiative. R1,000 feeds a family of four for three weeks, helping them ride out the storm with food that can last until lockdown is over.

Packaging the products at the warehouse used by SDI Force in Johannesburg into food and essentials packages that are distributed to various households in need around Johannesburg, 1 April 2020. Picture: Neil McCartney

A sizeable box containing toilet paper, sugar, beans, tea, rice, canned goods, juice and a hygiene pack is delivered to families who may not have been able to cope with lockdown on their own.

On Wednesday, Maphepo Lebogo reached out to SDI Force, telling them the stories of five of her neighbours in a quiet street that were in dire need of food and supplies.

An emotional Lebogo was relieved when the now familiar white bakkie pulled into her street, but shed a tear when she saw her neighbours looking worse than she had previously anticipated.

“I didn’t know things were that bad,” she said while wiping tears away.

Lebogo took it upon herself to help people she knows cannot help themselves. And although Wednesday’s delivery in the area was small when compared to massive trucks being loaded each day and taken to various parts of Johannesburg, she said these were five families that may not have been able to last another day.

But getting to these families is another potential problem, which is where SDI Force’s connections with small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) comes in.

SDI was founded three years ago by Andile Ramaphosa and Brad Fisher. Before Covid-19 hit the world, SDI was approaching large corporate businesses and encouraging them to rather use existing SMMEs.

Kagiso Sthebe helps carry some products as Tshediso Moteane, a member of social development in Johannesburg (not pictured) delivers packages to some housholds in Meadowlands as part of SDI Force’s programme to deliver needed goods to households in need. Picture: Neil McCartney

These business connections have never been more handy.

As the coronavirus pandemic spread, and South Africa held its breath as it landed on our doorstep, SDI realised it could provide essential services using its database of micro-suppliers.

These suppliers now provide their services on the ground, and are alleviating the pressures felt by government, while making it possible for the poor to make it through the current pandemic.

“It is with this in mind that SDI has put together a team of experts, who will operate under the banner of SDI FORCE, to ensure that this network of micro suppliers will ultimately allow us to access up to 50,000 activators on the ground, that are experienced at working with technology, and are able to play a much-needed role during these trying and difficult times,” explained Andile Ramaphosa.

The time for small and big business to come together has never been more vital than now.

And with the already existing database of trusted SMMEs, SDI-compliant businesses can help provide essential services to those most in need, an opportunity the Department of Social Development, who has its hands full, is grateful for.

So, how can ordinary citizens stuck at home during lockdown help SDI Force get as much food and hygiene supplies as possible to the needy?

The solution is so simple that people do not even have to leave their couches.

They simply click on and make a donation of whatever amount they can afford.

Ramaphosa said that while SDI Force has received a positive response from the public, the platform needs more visibility. This is especially important because the amount of deliveries done by SDI Force on a daily basis is solely dependent on donations.

“Any of us can be activists right now. And right now you see the best of a nation, where people can be involved. We want the public to unite and say we can be part of SDI Force.”

Ramaphosa added that understandably, donation platforms can be daunting, with people always wondering if their money reached the right people.

This, he said, is where SDI Force’s partnership with Unity Values plays an important role, as all donations can be tracked and traced – down to the individuals receiving the care packages that citizens helped pay for.

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