Hunters Sharing the Harvest continues to fill a big need in Pennsylvania

By the middle of the 2017 Pennsylvania archery deer season, I was blessed to fill both my buck tag, as well as my freezer. Knowing my family was restocked with lean, healthy venison for another year was a comforting realization – especially since we utilize deer meat as a primary source of protein for a variety of meals.

But with ample time remaining in the season, and knowing others might not be so fortunate, I set out with a new task – to fill one of my antlerless deer tags and obtain some venison for others who need the meat even more than I do.

My goal was to donate a deer to “Hunters Sharing the Harvest” (HSH), a cooperative venison donation program that turns hunter-harvested deer into an energy-rich protein source for struggling families across the state.

As a registered 501c3 non-profit program, HSH enables hunters to share their extra venison through a statewide network of participating butchers to food banks across Pennsylvania.

HSH-participating butchers are paid for their services through sponsor-supported donations. They help to coordinate meat deliveries to local food banks and, in turn, the food banks redistribute the venison to more than 5,000 food-assistance provider organizations such as food pantries, missions, homeless shelters, hunger-relief organizations and churches that play a vital role in helping to fill the gaps for families and individuals in need.

“It’s amazing how much of an impact HSH has made over the past 26 years, distributing more than 1.2-million pounds of donated venison since 1991,” said John Plowman, HSH executive director. “Last year alone, hunters provided an all-time record of 120,000 pounds of venison.

“These numbers are a testament to the central mission of Hunters Sharing the Harvest,” Plowman said. “Our dedicated team of board members, volunteer coordinators, food banks, legislators, state and local agencies work in concert with a common mission to help feed those in need. That’s when great things happen. We’re so proud to have reached this milestone.”

The success of the HSH program would not be possible without the fervent support of its generous financial partners. Sponsors range from high-end Corporate/Foundation contributions of over $10,000 by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Blackford Ventures, CONSOL Energy, Range Resources, Wal-Mart VAP Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation to Business, Club and Individual partnerships varying from just a few dollars up to thousands in monetary support.

Every buck makes a difference, be it in the form of venison or financial gifts. These donations help to provide the equivalent of more than 500,000 meals to feed nearly 1.8 million Pennsylvanians who are considered to be in need.

Joe Arthur, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, said HSH plays a vital role in providing roughly 10,000-15,000 pounds of lean protein, which equates to 40,000 center-of-plate meals for 10,000 families each year. The venison received from hunters is very popular, especially since it is such a healthy option.

“Meat is particularly difficult to come by from a donation standpoint, and our close partnership with HSH helps remedy this issue,” Arthur said. “We are very thankful for the hunters and their willingness to give up this high-quality meat.

“We have a growing demand for venison, and we’d love to see even more hunters donate, because we can certainly distribute more than we receive,” Arthur added. “It is something that folks in need are comfortable getting and like to receive. I would urge all successful hunters to consider donating their deer to one of the approved HSH meat processor locations. It’s very convenient and goes a long way.”

J.R. Hemperly owns and operates Hemperly’s Butcher Shop in Annville, Pa., and serves as an official participating deer processor for HSH. He said the donation process is very user-friendly for hunters and can accommodate both entire and partial deer donations.

“All a hunter needs to do is bring the deer into my shop, fill out a standard tracking form, and I take care of the rest; there is no cost whatsoever to the hunter,” Hemperly said. “I grind, package and freeze the venison burger so it is nice and neat for storage. I like that most of the donations I process stay local and go right to the Lebanon Rescue Mission. Boy, are they happy when they see that delivery truck pulling up to the door. It’s a really terrific program.”

I was thankful for the opportunity to help those in need, and I encourage other successful hunters to consider doing the same. One deer can go a long way in providing healthy meals for multiple families, and the donation process couldn’t be easier. It felt great to share my bounty with those who face the threat of hunger each and every day.

Hunters interested in participating in the HSH program can take their deer to one of more than 100 participating meat processors throughout the state, and all Pennsylvanians can donate tax-deductable monetary gifts to the “Buck for the Pot” campaign, which directly supports the HSH mission.

Go to www.sharedeer.org for more details.

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