December 6, 2007

Local Hunters Sharing the Harvest with Food Pantry

Area hunters will get one more chance to lend a hand to a good cause. The blaze orange will be dawned one last time as deer hunters take to the woods December 8-16 for the antlerless deer portion of the 2007 firearms deer hunting season.

Successful hunters will have the opportunity to donate their deer to the Share the Harvest program. The cost to the hunter is just $20 thanks to local and state financial support for the charitable program.

The Conservation Federation and its partners, Bass Pro, Shelter Insurance and the Missouri Department of Conservation reimburse processors $35 per deer, an amount that is set each year, to process a whole deer donated to Share the Harvest.

The Scotland County Rotary Club is continuing its support of the project, donating $1,000 to the project. In addition the local group also has purchased a freezer for the Scotland County Food Pantry, which distributes the venison to local families.

Rutledge Meat Processing has already received 55 deer donated to Share the Harvest in 2007 with several more expected during the upcoming doe season. The processors stated deer vary dramatically in size, but the program is averaging around 35 pounds of ground venison per deer, or more than 1,900 pounds of meat thus far. That total is down slightly from previous years.

The Scotland County Ministerial Alliance, which maintains the local food pantry, has already begun distributing this years harvest.

We received nine or 10 boxes from the processor, said food pantry organizer Nancy Kapfer. With approximately 40 packages per box, we try to keep the freezer full for each months distribution day.

Kapfer noted that the pantry distributes two or three packages of venison per family, based on the family size.

This really helps people stretch their food bills, Kapfer said. Share the Harvest is a big plus for the food pantry, as we dont receive a lot of meat to distribute to the community.

The Conservation Department highlights the importance of these meat donations. Many families and individuals have no dependable source of protein in their diets, according to MDC. Red meat can provide that important component. Deer is a valuable source of protein; but, unlike most red meat, is unusually low in fat. Through Share the Harvest, Missouri hunters can help provide this part of the daily diet.

Its easy to donate. Hunters simply take their deer to an approved processing plant, such at Rutledge Meat Processing. The processor then packages and stores the meat until its transported to a distributing agency by the coordinator. Agencies receiving venison will distribute it to ensure that all venison is used and is goes to where it serves the greatest need.

The program dates back to 1992 when archery deer hunters began donating their deer harvest to help families in need. From that beginning a statewide system run by the Conservation Department and the Conservation Federation of Missouri developed into Share the Harvest.

Since 1992 more than 1.4 million pounds of venison has been donated according to the Conservation Federation of Missouri. The numbers have grown annually, with nearly 325,000 pounds donated in 2006 in the 80 participating counties. Overall more than 6,500 hunters have shared the harvest.

The MDC promotes the project as a win, win, win program. Hunters win by doing their part to help people in need; cooperating processing plants win by getting positive feedback for their involvement and donations of locker space; and participating organizations win by having a ready-made service project for a good cause. Plus, the Department of Conservation has yet another tool to use in management of Missouris valuable deer resource.

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