After early reports that venison donated by deer hunters to charities was down this year, Share the Harvest coordinators say donations are on pace to rival 2007’s record numbers.
The program has received nearly 22,000 pounds of donated meat this year, about 4,000 pounds short of its 2007 total.
Earl Cannon, coordinator of the Share the Harvest program for the central Missouri chapter of Safari Club International, said donations might be slightly down from last year, but the “local program is doing very well.”
Cannon said he is happy with the pace of the donations. Deer season doesn’t end until Jan. 15, he said.
“I think we’re going to come close to equaling what we did last year,” he said. “And that was a record year for us.”
The Share the Harvest program asks deer hunters to donate their kill to any processing plant certified by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Program sponsors cover the processing cost if a whole deer is donated.
The processed venison is distributed to participating charities, which then hand it out as they would any other donated item. The program, which began in 1991, works with 13 charities in mid-Missouri and numerous others across the state.
Dave Murphy, executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, which coordinates the program with the department, said he thinks the program is doing fine and is important to those it serves.
“We’re not seeing participation in our program down that much,” he said. “The people who receive venison from the program love it. The supply that we generate is exhausted in a few weeks.”
Maj. K. Kendall Matthews of the Salvation Army, one of the charities that participates in the program, said Share the Harvest is as important as another source of food for those in need.
“People don’t get it every day, so it’s like a delicacy, it’s special,” he said. “It’s kind of like being able to get a steak in lieu of chicken.”
Becky McNames, 23, who gets venison from the Central Missouri Food Bank's food pantry, said she and her mother love deer meat and look forward to it.
Mike DeSantis, marketing coordinator at the food bank, said the donated venison goes a long way to help those in need because “protein is the most expensive source of anyone’s diet.”
Misty Reid of Fulton said the venison and other meat she gets from the food bank are special.
“I think it goes a lot farther,” she said. “It’s hard to come by meat.”
Cannon, the central Missouri coordinator for Share the Harvest, stressed the importance of the program in light of the current economic situation.
“All of the charities in the program are seeing an increase in demand for food with the economic downturn,” he said.
“If every hunter could just spare a few pounds, it would go a long way.”