Amid the coronavirus pandemic, congressional candidate Peter Meijer has shifted campaign resources away from political activities and toward helping the West Michigan community.
Meijer announced on Monday, March 16 that the campaign was launching Operation FRED (Food Relief Emergency Delivery) to deliver care packages to people who cannot currently go out to the grocery store.
"We reached out to a couple of nonprofits in the area and just said 'where do you anticipate the need arising?' And one of the areas that they identified, that didn't exist in the current nonprofit sector to help address, was folks who are under quarantine because their doctor said stay at home, due to chronic health conditions or other risk factors," said Meijer.
Within two weeks, the response effort has resulted in delivering more than 10,000 meals across West Michigan. The care packages include non-perishable groceries, and they were delivered to 800 people throughout the region, according to the campaign.
"Our entire goal is to bridge the gap while our community responds to this evolving crisis," said Meijer.
Meijer has a background in working in disaster relief and humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, South Sudan, the Philippines and New York after Hurricane Sandy. He said their operation wanted to fill gaps while non-profit organizations in the area develop long-term solutions to get people back on their feet.
The campaign is using campaign funds and resources to keep the relief efforts running for the time being.
"We had a campaign operation, we had a half dozen full time staff members we have, a bank account that we can use to do some good here," said Meijer. "We just wanted to do everything we can to serve our community."
The program has served people living across 10 counties in West Michigan. Meijer said it's heartbreaking to hear the obstacles and challenges that people are experiencing right now.
"We are finding people who were were hanging on by a thread before, and didn't necessarily qualify for intervention with some other existing nonprofit entities. Now coronavirus is just kind of pushing them into a really challenging position," said Meijer.
The campaign is running this response effort for the foreseeable future.
Meijer is running in the Republican primary for Michigan's 3rd Congressional district. The seat is currently held by Rep. Justin Amash (I-Grand Rapids).
Meijer's contenders for the Republican nomination are State. Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, former Sand Lake Village President Tom Norton and attorney Emily Rafi. Immigration attorney Hillary Scholten is running for the Democratic nomination.
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