The Georgia Hunters for the Hungry program allows hunters to share their bounty of meat from the last hunt they had. Hunters for the Hungry helps feed Georgians in need by paying accompanying deer processors to process and package the ground venison for food banks. According to Feeding America, 1 in 7 Georgians struggles with hunger. More than 500,000 of the total people are children.
Food banks feed Georgia’s 1.6 million hungry residents with canned goods, dried grains, and other food types, but they are rarely able to offer high-protein options like meat. Georgia Hunters for the Hungry hopes to remedy that situation with the use of venison. Venison is an ideal food type to nourish the less fortunate because it is high in protein and low in fat.
The program operates with around 20 meat processors that accept donations on behalf of the organization throughout the state. The Meat Shed processes an extra 750 to 1,000 pounds of deer meat every year to donate to Georgia Hunters for the Hungry. The Georgia Wildlife Foundation has spent years recruiting more hunters and processors to help fill Georgia’s ever-growing need.
Donations from The Meat Shed lasted the Milledgeville-located Café Central through the whole winter last year, said Jim Humphries, executive chef of Café Central. Humphries used the 400 pounds of ground deer meat in soups, chilis, and hamburger patties mixed with beef.
“It helps us save money because that’s free protein to us that we don’t have to pay for,” Humphries said. “So, we can use money in other areas to buy more food, whether it’s to give out in our canned goods or actually for cooking purposes.”
Humphries was nervous to incorporate venison into his menu at first, fearing that his visitors wouldn’t like the unfamiliar taste. When he mixed the venison in with beef, no one really noticed. Mostly, people are just glad they have something filling and warm to eat.
“Being able to provide a free hot meal once a week is vital,” Humphries said. “And then at the same time, and in all honesty from my personal beliefs, it’s what we’re called to do, is to turn around and serve others who are less fortunate in the community and need help.”
Humphries was not the only person to understand the importance of shelters having protein to serve.
“We’re always going to have the problem where people need food,” said Adam Schiavone, wildlife technician and volunteer coordinator for the Georgia Wildlife Foundation. “Protein’s one of the hardest things for the food banks and soup shelters to get. And it’s just an easy way for hunters to help solve that problem.”
The Georgia Wildlife Federation reimburses partaking processors $1.50 for every pound of meat that they butcher. Once the meat is ground up and packaged, it’s delivered to the Georgia Food Bank Association, which then distributes the venison to communities across the state. The process gets harder without funding, though.
“Funding is the program’s greatest challenge”, said Sam Stowe, sportsmen program manager for the Georgia Wildlife Federation.
The nonprofit organization runs on individual donations and grants from the Walmart Foundation, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and a handful of other funders. The program nearly collapsed for several years during the recession when donations were too few. Years later, Stowe still struggles each year to keep the organization afloat.
Stowe is committed to growing the program. Eventually, he hopes to partner with processors in all 159 counties. He wants the program to expand and help as many people as possible because currently the program is not reaching everyone who needs it.
“There’s only so many dollars in the coffer that you’re able to allot that dollar-and-a-half a pound,” Stowe said. “That’s my problem. We’re not having more processors because we run out of money to pay the guys with.
“The organization benefits both the hungry and the hunters. It’s just a way that hunters can really feel good about their hunting and the fact that they are helping these families.
“Hunters interested in participating in the GHFTH program can bring field-dressed deer to any of the designated drop-off locations between Oct. 19 and Jan. 12 (during normal business hours).”
To find a list of all of the locations to drop off the meat for processing, consult the map on the Georgia Hunters for the Hungry page.
For More Information:
11600 Hazelbrand Road
Covington, GA 30014
Written by: Cody Gatts