In Pennsylvania, hunters help the hungry: Venison vital to charities
ALTOONA, Pa. — From the poor man to the rich man, you find everyone in the woods during hunting season.
The families that need the food probably aren’t the hunting, said one local hunting association official.
“Hunting isn’t a cheap thing; it’s a heritage thing,” he said.
Cost of licenses, rifles and ammunition can be hefty. A box of 20 shells can cost between $18-$70 per box. An adult hunting license costs $20.90 per year. And rifles can cost up to $800.
However, Thomas Poley, owner of Sabre Dynamic gun shop in Altoona, said rifles and ammunition are generally not that expensive.
“There’s a price difference between a Chevy and Lamborghini,” he said.
“The cost of a rifle is between $300 and $800, which is not that big a deal. If maintained, it will last a lifetime.
People hand them down to their kids and grandkids,” he said. “And for purely hunting purposes, the cost of ammunition has gone up, but the shots needed is not many. It costs $15-$35 for 20 rounds of ammunition. If all you do is deer hunt, you may have that box for two years.”
Nonetheless, Pennsylvania Game Commission Regional Director Brad Myers doesn’t see many hunters hunting to survive the winter.
“It’s not like the era of the Depression. Yeah, there’s a lot of economic downturn. Certainly, wild game supplements families’ food and serves a variety of needs, but it’s more of a tradition. hunting is for recreation, exercise, being with family, stories, those are the important things,” he said. “They remember the trophy deer but also the time spent with family, bringing up the kids; there’s nothing better than seeing a young person hunting his or her first bear, deer or turkey.”
School districts give students the first day of deer season off so that they can make those memories.
“Our district has a great love for hunting, and I believe the families enjoy the harvesting and partaking in eating the deer meat, as well,” Chestnut Ridge Superintendent Mark Kudlawiec said. “I have had the opportunity to have lunch with the middle school children that do hunt, and they tell me about the fun and enjoyment they have while spending time with their dads.”
Spring Cove School District Superintendent Betsy Baker said the district’s Thanksgiving break traditionally extends to coincide with the first day of buck season.
“Many families enjoy hunting together and appreciate having the schools closed in order to accommodate that tradition,” she said. “Many hunters give away venison each year to families who greatly appreciate it.”
Sometimes the donations of meat are the result of a mistaken shot.
There’s been a number of illegal kills in the past week, Myers said. hunters may mistake the points on a deer and kill one with too few points. hunters are supposed to turn their deer in to the commission if that happens, Myers said. But the meat isn’t wasted. The commission gives it to a charity that supplies area food banks through hunters Sharing the Harvest.
Hunters Sharing the Harvest is a 25-year-old, statewide nonprofit charity that distributes donated venison to food banks and food assistance centers. In 2016, the program celebrated the donation of its one-millionth pound of meat.
In an average hunting season, the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program’s goal is to channel about 100,000 pounds of processed venison annually through the state’s 20 regional food banks, which then re-distribute the protein source to more than 5,000 local provider charities, such as food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
Nearly 1.4 million Pennsylvanians are at risk for hunger in one of the most agricultural states in the Northeast, said Agriculture Secretary George Greig.
By donating venison to the statewide Hunters Sharing the Harvest program, hunters can help combat hunger in their own communities.
Over the past two years, hunters giving to the program have significantly increased the number of donated deer, a Department of Agriculture press release stated.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture provides funding through the Emergency Food Assistance Program to help defray the costs of processing donated venison. The Department of Agriculture announced it will increase the administrative funding cap for the program because of the increase in donated deer this hunting season.
McCready’s Deer Processing is a Hunters Sharing the Harvest processor in Blair County.
“There is a lot of families, you know, that do depend on it; I can honestly say that. I see a lot of it gets put into hamburger because you can easily utilize that,” owner Jason McCready said.
McCready’s provides venison to the Portage food pantry, operated by director Jim Kissell.
The pantry supplies between 100 and 150 families with food on a monthly basis.
“We’ve been blessed by receiving hundreds of hundreds of pounds of venison over the years. People up here, they love venison. There’s no better way to use it than use it for people who need it.”
Kissell himself is a hunters who shares his deer with people close to him.
“When they are not working, it helps them out,” he said.