>By Michael Guerra
Not a week goes by when someone at the Capital Area Food Bank doesn’t get asked whether or not we accept donations of “road kill” venison. For the record, we don’t—health regulations don’t allow it. But this inquiry points to a sense that there’s a lot of waste when it comes to our deer population in Central Texas. Unfortunately, that’s often true.
After all, venison is considered to be healthy protein, lean and low in fat, and food banks hate to turn down protein. Farmers in areas overrun with deer generally welcome hunting season. Not only that, families who visit emergency food pantries tell us they enjoy eating venison in all its processed forms—ground, steaks and sausages. There’s plenty of deer meat to be had in this area, and plenty of hunters who want to contribute generously to families in need. Large game ranches and farms are more than willing to share their larger-than-normal harvests with the state’s 19 food banks.
It should be the perfect symbiotic relationship, but current policy is standing in the way, because although health regulations allow us to accept donated venison, it must first be processed through approved packaging plants, at a cost to the hunter of about $30 per deer. Not every hunter who has the charitable impulse has that kind of extra cash.
If this roadblock were removed, the number of deer donated to Texas hunger relief groups could rise from last year’s 4,100 to over 30,000—more than four million healthy meals! Such states as Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan and New York have all taken advantage of this low-cost nutrition by implementing programs that help hunters process game for free, or at a very low cost, provided the meat is earmarked for regional food banks.
A staggering 22 percent of Texas children live in poverty, relying on emergency pantries to supplement their diets. More donated meat would most certainly go a long way to fix this problem—at a very affordable cost per pound—and we were encouraged to learn that three grassroots programs are taking on this issue in Texas. (Find out more below.)
It makes sense to support these organizations with much-needed funds. Further, hunters should connect sportsmen’s organizations to food banks, and encourage processors to donate extra meat. Anyone and everyone should ask their elected officials for support.
After all, the protein’s out there.
For more information contact:
Hunters for the Hungry: tacaa.org/hunters-for-the-hungry/
Sportsmen Against Hunger, Austin Chapter: 512-694-0387
Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (a faith-based group): fhfh.org