Share the Harvest A Big Hit With Hunters and Those in Need
By Kevin Fox
“We have been involved in the program since it’s very beginning and it’s been a very rewarding program and one which Clark County hunters have whole heartedly supported,” stated Larry Young of Kahoka Meat Processing and Deli. The program which Young was speaking of is “Share the Harvest” and is a program where a hunter can donate the deer they have taken to the Clark County Food Pantry. At the Pantry officials dispense of the venison According to the Missouri Share the Harvest website the program began when, “Concerned about the hunger that burdens many Missourians, the Conservation Department has found a way to help families in need. In 1992, archers in Missouri began a program to share the deer they harvested with those less fortunate. From that beginning developed a statewide system run by the Conservation Department and the Conservation Federation of Missouri called Share the Harvest, a program that provides an easy way for hunters to donate venison to Missourians in need of red meat.
Many families and individuals have no dependable source of protein in their diets. Red meat can provide that important component. Deer is a valuable source of protein; but, unlike most red meat, is unusually low in fat. Through Share the Harvest, Missouri hunters can help provide this part of the daily diet.
It's easy to donate. Hunters take their deer to an approved processing plant (see list in the "Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information" booklet), and simply tell the processor how much venison they wish to donate. The processor then packages and stores the meat until it’s transported to a distributing agency by the coordinator. Agencies receiving venison will distribute it to ensure that all venison is used and it goes to where it serves the greatest need.
The Conservation Federation and its partners will reimburse processors, at an amount set each year, to process a whole deer donated to Share the Harvest. Hunters who donate an entire deer will complete a voucher provided by their processor. The hunter’s bill is automatically reduced by the set amount. At the end of the season, processors will send the vouchers to the Conservation Federation for reimbursement.
Additional funds, which may be available from local sources, can further reduce processing cost. In some instances the entire processing cost may be covered! This is especially true in those areas of high deer density where a reduction in the deer population is warranted. “
Larry Young continued, “This year we are going to ask the hunter who is donating the deer if they would be willing to donate $10.00 towards the processing of the deer to help defray the cost of processing. This will be a change from the past, but Clark County hunters have been very generous and we expect that will continue. But over the years there have been many changes. For example, when it first began you could only give a deer away one time. So if you gave venison to someone, they could not turn around and give it to someone else. So we had to compile a list of people who had received venison previously. So we had to allocate so much of the deer to an individual. The Conservation Department decided that wasn’t the way to go. So they changed that process which allows the venison to be given to the Food Pantry where they can give it out to those who have a need. Also in the beginning we had to put the name of the person who had donated the deer on the package as well. It stayed that way for some time and then we went to the Share the Harvest bag that we use now. The process is less of a difficulty now, but there is still a great deal of paperwork. The one thing that has been consistent is that the deer must go to a licensed processing plant to be processed. The hunter who donated the deer has the option to donate all or part of his deer, with the only difference I believe that the Conservation Federation will only contribute to deer, which is completely donated.
The Conservation will allow us to take up to fifty deer, but financially they want us to take only forty deer, but we have taken more deer than that, but an individual or group has picked up the deer that have been donated past that forty number. Hunters have been very generous and before the season is over we will have to turn people away because we have reached our goal. The venison is ground here because they have come to the conclusion that ground meat will be used more in a variety of things and be used in anything which you can use ground beef in. I have heard that in some counties, the program does not get the same support and their Food Pantries have run out of venison within a couple of months, so I do not know what they give for meat at those sites. But it’s a great program and one which we are very pleased to be a part of.”
An estimated 50 to 60 pounds of ground venison come off each deer, so using the formula of 50 pounds and fifty deer donated, Clark County deer hunters give an estimated, 2,500 pounds of venison each year to the needy of Clark County. It’s certainly a win win program.