COLUMBIA — Gov. Jay Nixon made a stop just outside of Columbia on Tuesday afternoon to encourage Missouri hunters to take advantage of the Share the Harvest program.
In addition, Nixon announced $1 million in new funding for the Missouri Food Bank Association, a network of six regional food banks across the state. The food banks support thousands of community feeding programs, and Nixon said they have committed $150,000 to help expand the Share the Harvest program.
Share the Harvest is a cooperation among the Missouri Conservation Federation, the Missouri Department of Conservation, as well as Missouri food banks and meat processors to provide venison donated by hunters to families in need.
"Together we can fight hunger and foster hope all across our great state," Nixon said.
About 6,100 deer — more than 350,000 pounds of venison — were donated through the program last season, Nixon said, which is an increase over the 4,600 deer donated in 2009 season, and 4,200 donated in 2008.
With the additional resources, Nixon said he hopes Share the Harvest and hunters can donate 10,000 deer to feed 150,000 families across the state this season.
Although the cost of processing the deer is on the hunter, Share the Harvest provides meat processors and hunters the opportunity to be reimbursed in part for each full deer donated.
Nixon called Missouri's food bank programs robust because they are able to provide healthy food to those in need. He said the protein provided by the venison is a valuable part of a balanced diet and is a good contrast to the starchy items often found in food pantries.
"This year will be even bigger than ever," Nixon said. "The need is great out there."
Nixon said hunting is a strong part of Missouri's economy and outdoor legacy and praised Missouri hunters' safety and generosity.
Each year hunting plays a big role in the state's economy, said Dave Murphy, executive director for the Missouri Conservation Federation, including nearly $1 billion in economic activity that supports thousands of jobs.
Murphy said every donation counts and encouraged those that don't hunt to donate money to the program.
Nixon also visited food banks in St. Louis and Kansas City on Tuesday to encourage hunters to get involved in the program.