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Hunters for the Hungry

Instead of letting venison sit in the freezer, donate the meat to someone who really needs it.

By Steve Lightfoot

Sharing the bounty from a successful hunt is an integral part of the hunting experience. In Texas, where white-tailed deer populations in some areas exceed the capacity of the land to support them, there is plenty of bounty to pass around.

In those instances when the larder is packed full of venison, hunters are donating their excess meat to help feed the hungry through a program called Hunters for the Hungry. Initiated in 1990 through a collaborative effort among hunger-relief agencies, avid hunters and state government agencies, Hunters for the Hungry offers a convenient way to donate extra venison to help feed people in need.

Most families in Texas have an abundance of food available, but for one in six Texas households, food is not plentiful. More than 60 percent of surveyed food assistance agencies have reported an increase in the number of people seeking food and the most needed food group is protein. Venison is a very good source of protein and has roughly one-half the fat (by weight) of beef.

Hunters for the Hungry bridges the gap between the field and the table. Hunters take their legally harvested deer to a participating meat processor, who then will process and package the meat for a nominal fee to cover basic costs. Meat processors make arrangements with local food assistance agencies to distribute the meat to people in the community who need food.

Last season, hunters donated about 176,000 pounds of lean, high-protein venison to the program through 90 participating meat processors in 65 counties. Since the program’s inception, more than 1.5 million pounds of processed venison have been donated by Texas hunters.

“Hunters for the Hungry provides a valuable service for hunters and landowners who have too much of a good thing,” said Clayton Wolf, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department big game program director.

“Because it is illegal for a hunter to waste harvested venison, this program provides an appropriate option to make use of the meat. We encourage landowners we work with to participate in this program.”

This year, besides donations of game, Hunters for the Hungry also needs financial contributions. The Texas Association of Community Action Agencies has administered Hunters for the Hungry in Texas with federal Community Food and Nutrition Program funds for years. Congress zeroed out this funding stream, so Hunters for the Hungry must now raise money to continue the program. To donate to the Hunters for the Hungry program, visit <www.tacaa.org/hunters.htm> or call (800) 992-9767, extension 506.

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