|Hunters provide venison to hungry in Tennessee|
United Methodist Larry Ross is donating this deer to the Loaves and Fishes
food program in Bolivar, Tenn. A UMNS photo by Barry Simmons.
By Barry Simmons*
Dec. 14, 2006 | BOLIVAR, Tenn. (UMNS)
When Larry Ross spots a deer on his property, he can
tell immediately how many meals it will provide for a hungry family.
?We think a pound of venison feeds four meals,? he says, pointing to his
latest kill in Bolivar, Tenn. ?So if that?s the case, that?s 160 meals for this
one deer. Not bad is it??
Ross and a team of local United Methodists provide venison to area food banks
and soup kitchens through a program called Hunters for the Hungry, operated by
the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.
The program aims to alleviate the county?s exploding deer population ? now
the highest in the state ? by encouraging hunters to kill extra deer and donate
them to families in need.
Bill Kirk shows the 700 lbs. of venison donated to Loaves and Fishes
through the Hunters for the Hungry program. A UMNS photo by Barry Simmons.
Chad Whittenburg, state coordinator for Hunters for the Hungry, says the
overpopulation is beginning to cause problems in Hardeman County, such as ruined
crops and high insurance rates from collisions with deer.
At the same time, local food programs are struggling to find enough donated
meat. Whittenburg says a growing number of the area?s poor are under-nourished
because agencies are only able to provide non-perishable foods.
?(Hunters for the Hungry) is one of the only programs in the state where you
can give meat,? he says. ?Everybody gives canned foods or dry foods, but hardly
anyone gives meat.?
According to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, nearly 20 percent of the
state?s elderly and 11 percent of its children go to bed hungry. Those figures
reflect national hunger statistics, which, according to a study by the Second
Harvest Food Bank, are highest in Oklahoma and lowest in Delaware. In its 2006
report, ?National Statistics on Hunger and Poverty,? which ranked states from
best to worst according to ?food insecurity with hunger,? Tennessee placed 25th
among the 50 states.
Hunters for the Hungry has partnered with groups across the state that pay to
process the deer. The processing fees in Hardeman County are covered by
Bolivar?s First United Methodist Church, which has raised $8,000? enough to
provide 32,000 meals.
?All the hunter has to do is field dress the deer and take it to the
processor,? says Ross. ?It does not cost him anything.?
Most of the venison donated in Bolivar is sent to Loaves and Fishes, a local
food bank that has received so much venison that Hunters for the Hungry
installed an extra freezer.
?We?ve got about 700 pounds of deer meat in here,? says Bill Kirk, an
organizer for Loaves and Fishes. ?This is super for us. We love it.?
Since Ross and his team joined the program two years ago, they?ve contributed
eight tons of venison, which is used to make everything from tacos to sausages.
Whittenburg says venison is a leaner, high-protein alternative to beef.
?Anything that calls for ground beef,? says Whittenburg, ?you can substitute
with venison. You can?t tell the difference.?
Volunteers sometimes offer recipes to those who do not typically cook deer
meat. Oshanda Harrison is one of 300 people in Hardeman County who signed up for
the free venison. She received a venison roast.
?It keeps us from having to buy it,? she says. ?So yeah, it helps.?
Venison donations to Hunters for the Hungry are up 37 percent this year.
Whittenburg says the program collected more than 25 tons, which was enough to
make 200,000 meals. His goal is to provide 500,000 meals next year.
One of the program?s largest contributors is the Memphis Annual (regional)
Conference of The United Methodist Church, which raised more than $50,000 last
year. In March, it received the Tennessee Wildlife Federation?s Presidential
Award for outstanding volunteerism.
*Simmons is a freelance producer in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or
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