GRAND RAPIDS — Former Second Lady Jill Biden and congressional candidate Hillary Scholten visited the Kids’ Food Basket headquarters on Tuesday in Grand Rapids to highlight the growing issue of food insecurity.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden recently endorsed Scholten, D-Grand Rapids, who is running for U.S. Rep. Justin Amash’s seat representing Michigan’s 3rd District. Scholten is running against Republican Peter Meijer, the grandson of the grocery store chain founder Frederik Meijer.
Amash, a Republican-turned-Libertarian, is retiring from the U.S. House after five terms.
“Addressing the needs of the poor and marginalized in our community is the reason I raised my hand to run for Congress,” Scholten said. “From my time working with homeless women and children at Mel Trotter Ministries to working as a public interest lawyer, I have seen firsthand how food insecurity deeply impacts the health and well being of families across West Michigan.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kids’ Food Basket served more than 8,800 students at 52 schools in Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa and Allegan counties where at least 70 percent of the student population received free or reduced-cost meals. The COVID-19 crisis has escalated the need for access to consistent, healthy meals, officials with the nonprofit said.
“As soon as the schools shut down we had to really reassess our relationships in the community, so we’ve built deeper relationships with community agencies across all four counties and we continue to see the need rise,” said Kids’ Food Basket Vice President of Programming Will Osmun. “The challenge is families are still struggling to find where they can access the food.”
Since the first school closures in March, Kids’ Food Basket has been responding with an emergency food provision strategy across the four-county region. So far, more than 420,000 emergency meals have been delivered to 70 distribution sites that include schools and other nonprofit and community organizations.
“We typically like to have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, but because not all of our partners had access to refrigeration and immediate distribution, we ended up doing a little bit more shelf-stable food,” Osmun said. “Now we’re shifting back to more fruits and vegetables.”
The Kids’ Food Basket model of addressing food insecurity should be national, Jill Biden said.
“During the pandemic we have so much food insecurity, and I’ve seen this all across America,” Biden said. “This program is unbelievable, what they’re doing to help this community and its children.”
When asked if the Biden campaign will be making more campaign stops in Michigan, Biden said they likely will be back again and are “taking no vote for granted.”
Scholten said she was honored to receive the endorsement from Biden, who is looking to stop President Trump from securing a second term.
“(Biden) is running at a time in our country where it is so important to restore civility, humanity and empathy to our national leadership,” Scholten said. “Those are all the things I’m running for.”
The 3rd Congressional District has an opportunity to make history by electing its first Democratic representative in half a century and first ever woman, Scholten said.
“People are ready for change,” Scholten said, “and we represent a significant change that people really need.”