Missouri hunters donated more than 800 pounds of venison that were unloaded Thursday at The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.
Supported by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Conservation Federation, local food banks and meat processors, the Share the Harvest program has received about 7,500 pounds of venison so far this year from hunters in central and northeast Missouri.
For the past 20 years, the public-private cooperation has benefited low-income families.
In 2010, about 6,100 deer that produced 350,000 pounds of venison were processed through Share the Harvest. Hunters donated 4,600 deer in 2009 and 4,200 in 2008.
Gov. Jay Nixon, who helped unload venison Thursday morning at the food bank with First Lady Georganne Nixon, said he was pleased by the increase in participation.
"This year, through the support of my administration to the Missouri Association of Food Banks and our private partners, we are able to accept 10,000 deer — that's our goal," Nixon said.
Nixon, a hunter, said he has personally participated in the program for the past four years. "I harvested a deer from Pulaski County after attempting to harvest one further north earlier in the season," he said.
Though the main portion of the deer hunting season ended last Sunday, "it's still time to get involved," Nixon said. "There are still deer out there, and we are still in a situation where we can meet our targets."
The archery season is ongoing through Dec. 31 and the hunting calendar also marks an upcoming muzzleloader season and a January youth hunt.
"Any contribution will make a real difference," Nixon said.
After killing deer, hunters should tell their local meat processor how much venison they'd like to contribute, from a few pounds to an entire deer.
In addition, Nixon noted the financial incentives for hunters to donate.
There is no charge to process donated venison in many places across the state, and in every case, partners strive to keep the costs processing down for participating hunters, he said.
Peggy Kirkpatrick, executive director of The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, thanked Missouri hunters for their generosity.
"The meat is now ready to go to different food pantries and will be donated to needy families," Kirkpatrick said, noting the value of protein in a balanced diet.
Depending on the supply, each family might receive one or two packages of one pound of meat, she said.
Through this action, Nixon said, Missouri hunters are encouraged to fight hunger and foster hope.
By: Kevin Dubouis