Instead of discarding or wasting game meat harvested, through nuisance or crop damage licenses and surplus harvests, donation programs have developed across the country with the objective of distributing the surplus meat onto the tables of those in need. Additionally, hunters who wish to donate individual animals they harvest through regulated hunting are also able to participate in these programs, which helps to maintain the historical role of hunters as food providers and ensure game meat is not wasted.
As a result of the damage caused by the growing number of deer, geese, and other game animals to crops and property, depredation permits are being issued to farmers, airports, military installations, and agricultural facilities across America. These special permits, coupled with high bag limits and extended hunting seasons, are putting hunters in the position of being able to harvest more deer and other game than they can personally consume. Throughout the country, programs have been developed to distribute this surplus meat to put healthy meals onto the tables of needy citizens. Donating venison and other wild game is a great way to ensure harvested meat is not wasted.
Research has shown that most adult Americans (85%) will support hunting if they know the primary motivation of the hunter is to procure meat. Programs, such as Buckmasters Project Venison, Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH), Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH), Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH), and Sportsmen Against Hunger (SAH) are established in many states to facilitate the processing of meat and the donations to food banks. Donations have grown nearly 20 percent since 2008 to about 1.3 million meals last year. An important component of these programs is their ability to build good will with the non-hunting public and frame the importance of hunting in a way non-hunters can understand and feel comfortable supporting.
Most states have a venison donation program to feed the hungry, but the greatest obstacle these organizations encounter is a lack of funds for processing costs. Buckmasters Project Venison, FHFH, HHH, HSH, and SAH, along with individual state-based programs, such as Wayside Food Programs in Maine , are attempting to change this by inviting all hunters to showcase their hunting heritage as food providers.
Points of Interest
- A number of states now allow hunters to donate money to similar programs when purchasing their licenses. This money helps to cover the cost of processing.
- On average, 50 pounds of meat can be taken off of a deer. If ground and used in spaghetti or chili, one deer can feed 200 people at $0.25/serving.
- In 2010, 2.8 million pounds of deer, elk, antelope, moose, pheasants and waterfowl meat was donated to game meat donation programs around the country allowing 11 million meals to be served.
Legislation that promotes Game Meat Donation Programs:
- Alaska H. 179: “A person may donate fish, game, marine or aquatic plants, or any part of fish, game, or aquatic plants, or a nest or egg of fish or game lawfully taken for subsistence, sport, or personal use to a food service program.”
- Kentucky S. 55: “An Act relating to the donation of game meat… Create a new section of KRS Chapter 217 to define ‘not-for-profit organization’ ‘take’ and ‘wildlife’; prohibit state and local government entities from restricting the donation of game meat to or from not-for-profit organizations for the purpose of free meal distribution; require that the game meat be from wildlife that was taken in the Commonwealth, properly field dressed and processed, and apparently disease-free and unspoiled.”
Elected officials have numerous and unique opportunities to enhance the historical role of hunters as food providers by supporting laws, legislation, and community programs which make providing game meat to the hungry a more streamlined process. To counter the administrative costs associated with these programs, legislators are urged to explore potential funding sources to cover processing costs which will further enhance the ability of these organizations to provide meals for their less fortunate constituents.
For more information regarding this issue, please contact Zachary Sheldon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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