Posted By Chris Coleman, Channel 3 Outdoors Contributor - bio | email
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee's Hunters for the Hungry program has collected more than 800,000 pounds of donated venison for food banks and soup kitchens across the state over the course of 15 years. A strong season could put the program over the million-pound mark.
Participation has grown significantly in recent years, say officials with the Tennessee Wildlife Federation (TWF) who administer the program statewide. Funding now exists for hunters to donate approximately 2,000 whole deer this season at no cost through participating processors.
According to Tracey Alderice, director of agency and program services at Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville, one in six adults and one in four children in Tennessee struggle with hunger.
"More than 400,000 people in our 46-county service area are at risk of hunger," Alderice said. "Our partnership with Hunters for the Hungry is extremely beneficial because it matches resources with need. By connecting a local Department of Agriculture-approved processor with a Second Harvest Partner Agency, we're allowing Tennessee hunters to donate meat that provides our clients with much-needed protein."
One pound of venison equals four meals, and many food banks say Hunters for the Hungry is their only reliable source of protein during the colder months. Last year, the Federation collected more than 56 tons of lean, healthy venison that was then distributed across the state.
"Awareness of the program has increased steadily over the last several years, but funding is always the biggest challenge," said Matt Simcox, TWF's program manager for Hunters for the Hungry. "The need has grown exponentially, and we want hunters to understand what a difference they can make in people's lives by donating a deer. Cash donations are critical, too, as they pay for processing and distributing the meat."
Those 2,000 deer would provide nearly half a million meals to hungry Tennesseans, at no cost to the hunter. A complete list of participating processors and updated funding quotas is available on the Federation's website at www.tnwf.org, where monetary contributions can also be made. Once funding is exhausted, processors will accept donated deer at a discounted rate, typically $40, to be paid by the hunter.
"We are extremely thankful for the partnership with Hunters for the Hungry because it allows everyone in the process to take advantage of every opportunity to give back to their local community and help those in need of food assistance," Alderice said. "The program also helps our Partner Agencies stretch their resources further by being able to supply protein to their clients at no cost."
Since 1946, the not-for-profit Tennessee Wildlife Federation has been a champion for Tennessee's wildlife and natural resources through stewardship, advocacy and education. To learn more, visit http://www.tnwf.org/.
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