NEWTOWN, Conn. — When you’re passing the turkey and stuffing around the Thanksgiving dinner table, here’s a story to tell–one that would not be possible without the thoughtfulness and generosity of hunters.
A new study commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and conducted by Mile Creek Communications reveals that last year 11 million meals were provided to the less fortunate through donations of venison by hunters. Nearly 2.8 million pounds of game meat made its way to shelters, food banks and church kitchens and onto the plates of those in need.
“Given our challenging economic times, hunters’ donations of venison have never been more important to so many people,” said Stephen L. Sanetti, president and CEO of NSSF, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry. “These contributions are just one way hunting and hunters are important to our way of life in America. Learning about these impressive figures makes me proud to be a hunter. I have donated game meat during the past year, and I urge my fellow hunters to strongly consider sharing their harvest.”
The study revealed that donations were largest in the Midwest and the South. The Midwest provided 1.3 million pounds of game meat, amounting to 46.1 percent of total donations, with the South close behind at 1.25 million pounds and 45.7 percent. The Northeast contributed 7.2 percent of total donations and the West 1 percent. Though lower than other regions, the West’s contribution still accounted for 108,520 meals.
“Certainly the Midwest, South and Northeast benefit from having large populations of white-tailed deer,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF’s director of statistics and research. “These figures are from confirmed sources, but annual donations could easily be double this amount if ‘direct’ donations from hunters to friends and family are included.”
Curcuruto added that NSSF commissioned the study to better understand the size and scope of these venison donations.
Groups often cooperate to ensure a successful donation program. In Georgia, according to the Athens Banner Herald, the Georgia Wildlife Federation pays for the meat to be butchered and packaged at state-licensed processors, the state Department of Natural Resources oversees the program and the Georgia Food Bank Association coordinates distributions. Additionally, the game meat satisfies shelters’ need for nutritious food items. Dave Williams, who manages food resources for a northeast Georgia food bank, said in the Banner Herald that he is focused on acquiring more nutritious items and noted, “Deer venison is such a low-fat, high-protein item, agencies greatly appreciate getting it.”
Another recent news report out of the Indiana-Kentucky-Illinois area pointed out that one deer can feed up to 200 people. Ground venison is a versatile food, with cooks using it in pasta sauces, chili, tacos, meatloaf, burgers and other dishes.
Individual hunters donate game meat and even pay for processing, though many hunters choose to work with organizations dedicated to the cause of helping the hungry. Many of these groups were sources for the NSSF study and include Hunters for the Hungry, Farmers & Hunters Feeding the Hungry, Hunt to Feed and Buckmasters, among others. Visit this website for more information about groups active in various states.
And don’t forget to tell this heartwarming story ’round your Thanksgiving table.