Hunters Helping the Hungry filling pantries

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 10, 2008

Now that Alabama&8217;s lengthy white-tailed deer season is only three weeks from ending, many hunters have already taken enough deer to fill their freezers.

That means it would be a perfect time to share nature&8217;s bounty with those less fortunate by participating in the Hunters Helping the Hungry program, which provides a method for hunters to donate thousands of pounds of ground venison to needy families and individuals in the state.

Since the program&8217;s inception in 1999, more than 400,000 pounds of ground venison have been donated to food banks in the state, and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) officials expect to surpass the 450,000-pound mark by the end of the 2007-2008 season.

The ground venison makes a significant contribution to the meals distributed to the needy, according to food bank officials.

Walker said the problem is the supply is unable to keep up with the demand.

Walker admits there were more than a few people who were a little leery about consuming venison for the first time, but that reluctance disappeared quickly.

Parke Hinman, director of the Montgomery Area Food Bank, said the facility received 4,182 pounds in 2007. He said that would supply the meat portion of the meal for more than 15,000 people.

Hinman explained that the way food banks distribute food to the needy is through agencies &8212; churches or non-profit organizations.

Hinman said the venison normally comes in two-pound packages, which are very manageable and easily distributed to organizations or families.

The program, which raises funds through the Governor&8217;s Hunt for Hunger benefit quail hunts, started as a joint project of the Governor&8217;s Office, the National Rifle Association, the Phillip Morris Company, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources Foundation.

Hunters who wish to participate in the program should field dress the deer and take it to a participating processor. A list of deer processors is available at http://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/HelpingHungry.

There is no charge to the hunter to donate the venison, although hunters may voluntarily pay processing fees to provide more venison for food banks to distribute. The processors receive $1 per pound from the Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources Foundation.

Barnett Lawley, ADCNR Commissioner, said the Hunters Helping the Hungry program assists in dealing with two problems in Alabama.

Call 334-242-3467 for information or to sign on as a processor. Those wishing to make a donation to the program may send a check or money order to the Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources Foundation, P. O. Box 140, Montgomery AL 36101-0140. Hunters Helping the Hungry should be on the check.