The Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry program crossed an eye-opening milestone this deer season — more than a million pounds of venison have been collected and distributed to soup kitchens and food banks across the state.
“Protein is a precious resource for hunger relief agencies as they struggle to find reliable suppliers. Thanks to generous hunters, donors, processors and other supporters, we’re able to help address that ever-growing need,” says Kendall McCarter, the Federation’s Chief development officer.
“We can do more, but there are significant costs associated with operating the program, processing the deer and distributing packaged meat to the end users.”
Over the course of 16 years, Hunters for the Hungry has collected literally tons of venison each deer season, utilizing a network of Tennessee Department of Agriculture-Certified processors to package meat that yields hundreds of thousands of meals for hungry Tennesseans. This year, more than 2,300 whole deer were donated and more than 30,000 pounds of smaller meat donations were collected, providing approximately 500,000 meals statewide.
“We’ve made great strides on marketing the program, but we’re limited by our funding,” says TWF’S Hunters for the Hungry Manager Matt Simcox. “This is a plentiful, renewable resource that offers lean, healthy protein. The more money we raise, the more meat we can provide, and a gift of fifty dollars could literally feed dozens of people. It’s that simple.”
A recent statewide survey of Tennessee hunters and wildlife lovers generated some 3,000 responses, along with some important insights. More than 50 percent of hunters take multiple deer each year to eat — some as many as 10. As a result of a booming whitetail deer population, hunters can legally take more than 100 each season, if desired. Nearly 30 percent reported that they’d never donated to the program, as a result of either the cost or the lack of awareness. More than 70 percent said they would be willing to donate one or more deer if the processing was free.
“We have quotas for free processing based on private donations, but they are typically exhausted before the season is over,” McCarter explains. “Clearly, hunters and others who care about our natural resources overwhelmingly support the program, and want to find ways to help. Every donation makes a difference.”
Between now and April 30, the Feinstein Foundation in Rhode Island is challenging non-profit hunger relief organizations nationwide to a matching challenge. Dollars raised for Hunters for the Hungry could be matched by the Foundation, making now a better time than ever to donate to the program.
Since 1946, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation has served as champions of our state’s Great Outdoors. To learn more about the Federation or Hunters for the Hungry, please visit www.tnwf.org.