Hunters Sharing the Harvest program aiming for one million pound mark of venison donated this season
It is said you are doing things right when others try to copy it and, as an out-of-stater in a room filled with Pennsylvanians, Matt Simcox was busy taking notes on everything he wanted to take back home to Nashville, Tenn.
There they call it Hunters for the Hungry; here, Hunters Sharing the Harvest, and in the words of the latter’s executive director, John Plowman, Simcox was a “Tennessean who came up to replicate all the good things we are doing here in Pennsylvania.”
“Quite simply, I have been blown away by all that I have seen and heard today,” Simcox told his listeners. “It is unbelievable to see what you folks have been able to do here in Pennsylvania with Hunters Sharing the Harvest.”
Simcox joined a long list of HSTH proponents appealing to Pennsylvania hunters to consider donating venison after the state’s traditional deer hunting season opened Monday. Others speaking at a news conference Nov. 24 at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Harrisburg were DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, Agriculture Secretary Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Pa. Game Commission Executive Director Matt Hough.
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn appeals to hunters seeking deer on state forest and state parklands to donate their venison this year to Hunters Sharing the Harvest.
As the HSTH effort marked its 24rd year, all applauded the efforts of a program that has provided more than 200,000 meals annually to food banks, churches and social services feeding programs. Key, of course, are the hunters who donate more than 100,000 pounds of venison each year.
Hunter donations and support from a long list of state and private interests were acknowledged by HSTH Executive Director Plowman. All, he said, have helped make the Pennsylvania effort a benchmark other states hope to duplicate as it again rolls toward processing one million pounds of venison and providing two million meals.
Noting contributions by other state agencies, corporate and business sponsors, hunters and sportsmen’s groups, DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said, “DCNR can best be described as a sideline player in this worthy effort.”
“Since the inception of this great program, what DCNR has done is support and encourage deer hunting on the 2.2 million acres of state forestland and roughly 80 percent of the state parklands it maintains,” the secretary said. “We encourage hunters to continue being our invaluable partners in areas where our foresters and park managers deem deer control is necessary. Often that is in areas designated as Deer Management Assistance Program, or DMAP, areas where—if a second deer is harvested—chances are better that it might be donated to Hunters Sharing the Harvest.”
Dunn stressed DCNR works closely with hunters in both its state parks and forests, and she noted that association was strengthened that day by Gov. Tom Wolf’s Executive Order formally establishing both the Governor’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation and the Governor’s Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation.
“When you consider the amount of food wasted in this country daily, you can’t help but question how there are people going hungry?,” said Agriculture Secretary Redding. “We are a world-leader in agricultural production, yet one in seven Pennsylvanians struggle to secure enough food to eat. Hunters Sharing the Harvest is a way for us to help those in need and to do the right thing. Food is a basic human right and no one should go hungry.”
The department and HSTS just completed the first year of a renewed five-year contract between the organizations in support of the program.
The Department of Agriculture, through the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program, contributes $1.35 per pound of donated venison to reimburse processors. Based on $1.35 per pound donated, the department will allocate up to $125,000 per year to partially offset processor costs; this ceiling was attained in the 2014 hunting season.
Pa. Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said, nationwide, HSTH has been the leader in charitable venison donations. The commission has long partnered with HSTH, and Hough said the agency is proud of what the program represents and what it shows about the generosity of Pennsylvania’s hunters.
“What greater act of kindness is there than feeding someone who is hungry?” Hough asked. “There certainly aren’t many, and through their donations, it’s obvious our hunters understand that.”
“Hunger-Free Pennsylvania has been pleased to partner with Hunters Sharing the Harvest for close to 25-years” said Sheila Christopher, Executive Director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania. “The growth of the program and commitment from the Pennsylvania hunting community throughout the years has been priceless to our organization and those who rely on our service.”
“We are so thankful to Pennsylvania hunters that donate through the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program, bringing thousands of healthy venison meals to Pennsylvania families in need each year” said Joe Arthur, executive director of Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. “The need for nutritious food assistance remains at record high levels, so it is vitally important right now that we can count on hunters to donate their harvest through this safe and easy program.”
“Feeding Pennsylvania is proud to partner and support Hunters Sharing the Harvest in their efforts to engage Pennsylvania hunters in the fight against hunger,” said Jane Clements-Smith, the organization’s executive director. “Our priority is to find ways to get more nutritious food to our families in need, and through this program we are able to provide them with high protein, lean, healthy meat.”
Donation guidelines are simple: hunters wishing to donate venison can visit www.sharedeer.org for a list of HSTH participating butchers; take the deer to an area butcher, telling them they wish to donate. Former fees that had to be paid by hunters have been waived thanks to supporter contributions. Hunters can take their deer to participating meat processors throughout the state. They can donate any amount of their venison to the program, from several pounds to the entire animal, which is then processed into ground venison before it is distributed.
Established in 1991, Hunters Sharing the Harvest provides more than 200,000 meals annually to food banks, churches and social services feeding programs. Hunters regularly donate more than 100,000 pounds of venison each year.
Pennsylvanians can also donate money to the Buck for the Pot campaign, which supports “Hunters Sharing the Harvest.”
To learn more about the program and obtain a list of participating meat processors and county coordinators, visit www.sharedeer.org or call, toll-free, 1-866-474-2141.
Hunters can take their deer to one of 115 participating meat processors throughout the state and donate any amount of their venison to the program.
Pennsylvanians can also donate money to the Buck for the Pot campaign, which supports HSTH. Corporate sponsorships are also welcome to assist with processing costs.
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