GREENVILLE, Pa. — As Pennsylvania’s firearms deer season opens, hunters have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the hungry by donating deer via Hunters Sharing the Harvest this season.
Since 1991, Hunters Sharing the Harvest has channeled hunters’ donations of venison to the food-insecure via an integrated network of participating meat processors, area coordinators and regional food banks. These donations have provided more than 10 million servings of lean, high-protein venison to food-insecure Pennsylvanians.
To donate a deer, the hunter legally harvests, tags and field dresses the deer before taking it to a participating processor. He or she then completes a simple donor receipt. The donor can keep the antlers and cape if desired. The venison is processed into ground burger and made available to regional food banks for pickup. There is no cost to the hunter to donate a deer.
Hunters Sharing the Harvest’s nationally emulated operating model works because it ensures that participating processors are paid for their services. Most processors could not afford to donate their services due to the high costs of materials and manpower.
The funding for this reimbursement program comes from the support of individual and corporate donors and sponsors, public and private foundation support and budgetary allocations from key partner agencies like the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission provides significant funding support to the program as well and works as a resource partner in communicating and advocating the sharing of harvested deer.
With the availability of additional deer tags and the Deer Management Area Program, Pennsylvania hunters have a resource to share extra deer that their family can’t consume in a year. This helps encourage more hunters to go afield more often and fill these extra tags where they might not have otherwise.
Those who ultimately benefit from the program are the food insecure. The average deer yields approximately 35-40 pounds of usable ground meat, which can provide more than 200 servings of lean, highly nutritious venison. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need across the state and demand remains extremely high for donated food, especially fresh red meat.
The program is actively seeking participating butchers in many counties. The program’s growing popularity and expanded hunter participation, coupled with a contraction of this highly skilled industry due to generational, cost and workforce factors, has created a need for more qualified processors.
These operations should be licensed or inspected by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture or the United State Department of Agriculture. Participating deer processors are reimbursed at an agreed-upon rate per deer.
Once approved as a participating processor, they receive complete instructions, donor receipts, reimbursement forms, Hunters Sharing the Harvest-branded meat bags and material to promote their involvement with the program.
County coordinators are also needed in many counties without one presently. This key volunteer team represents the program within their respective counties, informing the public and corporate sponsors of the various ways they can support the program, and acting as a liaison between participating deer processors, hunters and food banks.
For more information, including the current list of participating processors in each county, ways to get involved as a deer processor, area coordinator, donor or sponsor, visit sharedeer.org, call 866-474-2141 (toll-free) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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