Hunters feed the needy with charitable venison donation program
St. Louis, Mo — $7 may not seem like a lot of money these days, but it can go a long way to feeding those in need, thanks to the Share the Harvest Program.
As hunters take to the woods this fall, they’ll be doing their part to help manage the deer herd. They can also help enrich the lives of St. Louis-area families in need with Share the Harvest.
The statewide Share the Harvest Program is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation and is a cooperative effort between hunters, meat processors and local charitable organizations. It provides food to the hungry through deer meat donated by hunters. Hunters can choose to give part or all of any deer they take. They bring their deer to an approved meat processor to process the venison, usually into ground meat, where it is then packaged for distribution.
“This is one of the programs I really enjoy working with,” said St. Charles County Conservation Agent Becky Robertson. “A deer tag for a doe is only $7, and you can feed a family for a quite while on that $7,” Robertson pointed out.
In the past, hunters have had to pay part of the processing costs for deer they donate to Share the Harvest. But thanks to help from two local charitable organizations, Operation Food Search and the Denny Dennis Memorial Fund, whole deer donated to approved processors will be processed completely free of charge to the hunter.
Share the Harvest can reimburse approved processors only part of the processing fee for each whole deer given to the program. Operation Food Search subsidizes the remainder, making processing completely free for donating hunters in the St. Louis area.
Operation Food Search operates out of a 25,000 square foot warehouse facility in University City, complete with industrial-size freezers and refrigerators. The organization functions as a master pantry that provides food to some 300 food banks within a 75 mile radius of St. Louis. It obtains all food through private donations and delivers it to the food banks free of charge.
“For them to step in and pay for that other portion, it says a lot for their operation,” said Robertson of Operation Food Search, “I think it’s important to do our best to make it free to the hunter because sometimes they don’t always have the extra $40 to $60 to have the deer processed,” she added.
Once the limits of the Share the Harvest funds are reached another organization, the Denny Dennis Memorial Fund, will kick in to subsidize the Operation Food Search contribution. The Denny Dennis Memorial Fund is named in honor of the late founder of Denny Dennis Sporting Goods in Fenton and has been a long-time sponsor of the Share the Harvest Program.
There are six meat processors participating in the Share the Harvest Program within St. Louis and St. Louis County that offer free processing, and an additional 9 in the surrounding counties of Lincoln, Warren, St. Charles, Jefferson and Crawford. For a statewide listing of processors, consult http://mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/deer/share-harvest, or go to mdc.mo.gov and search keywords “share harvest”.
The complete list is also available on page 36 of the 2012 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information Booklet.
By subsidizing the cost of processing, Operation Food Search and the Denny Dennis Memorial Fund make it easier for St. Louis area hunters to donate deer for the Share the Harvest Program.
“There are people everywhere who are struggling and need the help” noted Robertson, “It does make you feel good to know that not only are you doing the deer management side of it, but you’re also helping to feed people who need food. It’s one way good Conservation improves our quality of life.”
Those wishing to learn more about the Share the Harvest Program can call the Conservation Federation of Missouri at 573-634-2322.