Hunters for the Hungry Program Seeing Drop in Donations
Hunters are helping feed hungry families in central Virginia. A program that processes meat from wild game to give to food pantries is experiencing a dramatic drop in donations.
Hunters can donate their deer to food processors throughout Virginia. From there, the meat goes to food banks and serves people in need. The program began more than 20 years ago, but needs help now more than ever.
Carol Johnson's meat processing shop is one of dozens that are part of Hunters for the Hungry.
"It's very lean, it's less than 4 percent fat which is leaner than chicken, so it's a very healthy alternative for families," she said. "It's hormone-free, steroid-free."
They spend six days a week preparing deer meat, a chunk of which goes to their hungry neighbors in central Virginia. The venison is placed in airtight bags and kept in a freezer. From the processing shop, the meat ends up at food pantries.
Joe Johnson of Johnson's Deer Processing said, "As soon as we get enough to make it worthwhile for them to come, I mean some pantries pick up 10 deer, some pantries wait and take you know 50 or 60 deer. It just depends on their need on that week or day."
The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank has seen an increasing need the past few years, especially for fresh foods.
Sherrill Berk, director of development at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank said, "High-quality proteins and other food sources that you can't get from donated goods. You know a lot of people donate cans, but then we still need fresh foods and produce and that sort of things."
Joe says one deer alone can feed more than 30 people. He also says more people are hunting, yet there's been a drastic drop in meat donations over the past several years.
"People are hunting for food, they use to hunt for pleasure, now they're back hunting for food. They're taking care of the animals, but they're not donating them to the needy," he said.
The meat stays local. Johnson's Deer Processing distributes to pantries in Albemarle, Culpeper, Madison, and Greene counties. Click here for more information on how to donate.