Hunters needed to help the hungry

By Keith Creagh and Dr. Phillip Knight

LANSING — Michigan’s hunters know firsthand the pride and satisfaction of being able to bring home a nutritious meal of wild game to the family supper table. They also know how hard it can be sometimes to provide that food.

Imagine trying to feed your family without the available means.

That struggle — with its stress, disappointment and anxiety — becomes particularly tough on families during the holiday season each year, with increased demands on a household budget.

Nearly 1.5 million Michigan residents — 15 percent of our residents and 18 percent of our children — live with the stress of not knowing when they will eat again — of not having a secure food source.

As we head toward the holidays and the firearm deer hunting season, hunters can help make a positive impact on this problem by donating venison to a family in need through Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger.

Since 1991, this group has helped connect donors, wild game processors and charities that feed people in need.

The board of this all-volunteer, unpaid organization — sportsmen and women concerned about making a positive difference in their communities — works to coordinate processing of deer harvested by hunters with local, licensed game processors throughout Michigan.

Over the past quarter century, food banks, pantries and shelters have distributed an estimated 608,000 pounds of venison donated by hunters. This translates to more than 3 million meals provided to struggling families.

Hunter donations of venison add up to over 20,000 pounds each year, providing over 100,000 meals.

Hunters can donate a whole deer, or a portion, by visiting a participating game processor. A list of processors involved in the program is available by calling the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger hotline at 1-586-552-6517 or by visiting www.sportsmenagainsthunger.org

Game processors are reimbursed by the pound for the meat they process. They also work with local food banks or soup kitchens to distribute ground venison.

Monetary donations can be made to the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger program when purchasing a hunting or fishing license or by making a Help Feed the Hungry donation at www.michigan.gov/estore.

These funds help cover the costs of processing, packaging and transporting donated venison.

This year, with the generosity of hunters – and the financial support of hunters and non-hunters – 32 different community agencies have received a total of over 20,000 pounds of ground venison. This significant donation is from just 16 different processors working with the organization.

The Food Bank Council of Michigan (FBCM) is an important partner in the Sportsmen Against Hunger program, working to distribute donated venison across the state.

This annual initiative aligns with the council’s mission to create a food-secure Michigan, where each person has access to proper nutrition acquired by dignified means.

The council is uniquely positioned to help distribute the donated venison. Last year, the FBCM’s seven partner food banks, distributed more than 181 million pounds of food to over 2,800 food pantries in every Michigan county.

Michigan food banks work with Sportsmen Against Hunger to help bring quality meat to the tables of people in need. Meat contains protein which ranks among the food items most needed by those without regular access to food.

The FBCM looks forward to working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Sportsmen Against Hunger to grow this program, so more people have access to wholesome food.

In addition to the DNR and the Food Bank Council of Michigan, the program is sponsored by several organizations, including Safari Club International, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Michigan Bow Hunters Association, Ted Nugent World Bowhunters and the United Methodist Men’s Club.

Michigan is home to a proud, long-standing hunting tradition.

Last year, more than half a million hunters in Michigan took to the woods during the firearm deer season. They brought home roughly 165,000 deer.

With the firearm deer season again upon us, we urge hunters to consider donating to Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger. It’s a gratifying way to help friends and neighbors by providing healthy venison meals to families who need food.

Struggling families across Michigan will deeply appreciate your generosity, especially during the holiday season.

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Keith Creagh is director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.Dr. Phillip Knight is the executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan.

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