Thanks to record-breaking donations of deer meat from Pennsylvania hunters, generous donors, and a helping hand from the Wolf Administration, the state’s charitable food system will provide more than half a million servings of ground venison through food banks, soup kitchens, and pantries throughout the commonwealth.
“I often say that you cannot have a charitable food system without a food system that is charitable, and this partnership is a shining example of how Pennsylvanians can work together to combat hunger in unique and creative ways,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Each year, I am amazed at the contributions we receive from the commonwealth’s hunters, and I thank them for their generosity. Our state’s sportsmen and women each year do tremendous work to help those less fortunate in their communities while enjoying the outdoors and a treasured pastime.”
Now in its 27th season, the non-profit charity Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) helps to coordinate the donation, processing, and distribution of venison to Pennsylvanians facing food insecurity. HSH has donated 1,356,281 pounds of venison to the hungry since 1991. The Department of Agriculture partners with HSH to cover some of the costs of processing the meat, with the department increasing its share of financial support over the last two years due to increased deer donations. With continued support from Governor Wolf, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Redding, legislative caucuses, businesses, sponsors and individuals, Pennsylvania hunters can donate their deer cost-free.
Generous sportsmen and women set a new HSH record during the 2017-2018 season with a total donation of 3,337 deer, yielding 130,930 pounds of deer meat and providing 667,400 meals for individuals and families in need. Due to this increase in generous donations, additional meat processors are being recruited throughout the year to better help turn hunters’ donations into high-value protein for hungry families. This year, the department will help to cover the service cost of more than 110 processors throughout the commonwealth.
Through many partnerships, HSH links generous hunters, meat processors, and the charitable food system by managing the donation and distribution of deer meat throughout the state. The program has become a nationally-recognized model, with other states adopting Pennsylvania’s program to serve hungry families in their own states.
“In the next several weeks, thousands of deer hunters will head for Penn’s Woods, and each of them has a unique opportunity to combine their love of the outdoors and hunting with a volunteer program that manages wildlife resources along with helping their neighbors and communities,” said Hunters Sharing the Harvest Executive Director, John Plowman. “And we are grateful for so many who provide the time and energy to serve others – ranging from our board members, volunteer county coordinators, and food banks, to our legislators, and state and local agencies. Literally everyone works together to help feed our neighbors in need, even sportsman and women.”
“Hunters Sharing the Harvest has been an enormous asset to our member food banks throughout the state,” said Jane Clements-Smith, Executive Director of Feeding Pennsylvania, the state association of Feeding America food banks. “On behalf of Feeding Pennsylvania and the 1.6 million Pennsylvanians who are struggling with hunger, we couldn’t be more thankful for all of the hunters who donate to this program. Our partnership with HSH helps to provide healthy and nutritious meals to families across Pennsylvania who need it the most.”
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is the largest non-profit food distribution organization in central Pennsylvania and serves as the ongoing host of HSH’s annual kickoff event.
“We are excited at Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to once again host Hunters Sharing the Harvest for their annual hunting season kickoff event,” said Joe Arthur, Executive Director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. “Our Food Bank counts on HSH each year to provide thousands of pounds of lean, healthy venison from deer harvested by Central Pennsylvania hunters. We are hoping for even more this year to share with our clients!”
“The partnership between Hunger-Free Pennsylvania and Hunters Sharing the Harvest for over 28 years has been instrumental in maintaining a steady supply of high protein, nutritious product through our network of 18 food banks and charitable food distribution organizations,” said Sheila Christopher, Executive Director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania.
HSH also works in partnership with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Deer Management Assistance Program to receive donations to help conserve a healthy, natural habitat that supports wildlife diversity and healthy deer populations throughout the state. Hunters Sharing the Harvest also partners with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which donates $20,000 annually and uses deer management practices that directly provide venison to the program.
Hunters interested in participating can take their deer to one of the 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 HSH.