Patrons of Pennsylvanian homeless shelters are being offered meals consisting of what is considered a delicacy in many five star restaurants: venison.
The ‘Hunters Sharing The Harvest’ (HSH) program, which allows the public to donate deer meat (also known as venison) to charitable soup kitchens and pantries has recently gained the attention of national media outlets.
Pennsylvania, sometimes referred to as “the huntingest state”, contains vast wilderness areas with an ecology furtive with wildlife and provides ample opportunities for sportsman to pursue hunting game.
The non-profit HSH program, which was founded in 1991, provides 750,000 meals to 21 food banks and more than 4,000 emergency assistance non-profits such as food pantries, missions, homeless shelters, Salvation Army facilities and churches, in 53 counties statewide.
The program requires that the meat be processed before being sent to food distributing organizations, the processing fee being an additional charitable donation at the hunter’s expense. However, the processing plants themselves typically offer a much-reduced fee for donated kills, with the Department of Agriculture and other organizations donating a small amount toward the processing of every animal.
Last week, Al Jazeera America prominently featured a special report (http://projects.aljazeera.com/2014/hunting/) detailing the program while following and interviewing the program directors and participants. The article quickly became one of the most viewed and shared on the news organization’s website.
Local Sanpete County hunter, Martin Hall, commented on the article:
“The use of wild game for food donations by means of hunting is admirable, particularly as a great deal of money is spent by the hunters to obtain the meat. Hunting is far more expensive than simply buying the meat from a market, yet the hunters are sharing it with others. The quality of life for a wild animal that is consumed for food via hunting is much better than the lives of commercially farmed animals used by most meat consumers.”
Programs like these are becoming increasingly utilized state to state. In 2010, the National Rifle Association reported that 2.6 million pounds of hunted meat were donated nationwide.
HSH began garnering the attention of the press outside the state last Thanksgiving, when the organization encouraged mass donations from the local hunting community and received ample in return.
PR Newswire featured an article in November 2013 that reported an estimated 1.5 million residents of the state were at risk of hunger and the state was considered to be overpopulated with 1.4 million deer. Officials from the program emphasize the low-fat, high protein, nutritional content of venison and assert that the average sized deer can provide approximately 200 meals. One hundred thousand pounds of venison were donated last year alone.
“Through Hunters Sharing the Harvest we are able to provide this center of the plate protein that provides great nutritional value to families and individuals struggling with hunger,” said the director of the Central Pennsylvanian Food Bank, Joe Arthur.
A student and hunter here at Snow, Cameron Turley, thinks the program is a valuable service. When asked if he would participate if a similar program were implemented here in Utah, he confirmed he would be inclined, even at his own cost.
“It would give more of an incentive to participate in multiple hunts each year,” he said. “For example, getting a doe tag and a spike tag along with the buck hunt. It’s good because a lot of guys just hunt for the trophy, and not for the sake of food. Even if you’re just hunting for the head, someone else can benefit as well.”