Hunters Sharing the Harvest celebrates 25th Anniversary, 1 millionth pound of donated venison
Harrisburg, PA – After 25 years, a statewide program that works to distribute donated venison to food banks and food assistance centers marked a 2016 milestone as Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) celebrated the donation of its one-millionth pound of meat during an event today at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
Hunters Sharing the Harvest is a non-profit charity that coordinates the processing and distribution of donated deer meat throughout the state for families at risk of hunger. The program has become a nationally-recognized model, with many other states adopting similar efforts.
“Hunters Sharing the Harvest makes the connection between hunters who want to give generously, processors who want to contribute their services, and the charitable food system that strives to provide meals for millions of Pennsylvanians,” said state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “This program could not have reached this milestone without the support of sportsmen and women across the state. And with hundreds of thousands of hunters entering the woods next week, we want to remind them that there is an opportunity to combine their love of the outdoors and of hunting with a good cause that could benefit their neighbors.”
HSH has earned a reputation as being one of the most effective social-service program conduits for hunters and wildlife managers to make a direct difference, often from actions that take place in the fields and forests.
“These numbers are a testament to the central mission of Hunters Sharing the Harvest,” said John Plowman, executive director of Hunters Sharing the Harvest. “Our dedicated team of board members, volunteer coordinators, food banks, legislators, state and local agencies work in concert with a common mission to help feed those in need. That’s when great things happen. We’re so proud to have reached this milestone.”
The anniversary is particularly significant, given the recent passing of HSH’s founder in October. Kenneth Brandt, a former state legislator from Lancaster County, founded HSH in 1991. His vision of helping others by using renewable resources of deer and wild game brought today’s HSH program into existence. This year’s HSH season kickoff is dedicated in his honor.
“The partnership between Hunger-Free Pennsylvania and Hunters Sharing the Harvest for the past 25 years has been instrumental in maintaining a steady supply of high protein, nutritious product through our network of 20 food banks and charitable food distribution organizations. We could not possibly purchase this product on the open market,” said Sheila Christopher, executive director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania. “We are especially proud to be part of this celebration in honor of our friend and colleague Ken Brandt, whose vision will continue through our work for decades to come.”
In an average hunting season, the HSH program’s goal is to channel about 100,000 pounds of processed venison annually through the state’s 20 regional food banks, which then re-distribute the protein source to more than 5,000 local provider charities, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters. The donations help to provide the equivalent of more than 500,000 meals annually to feed the nearly 1.8 million Pennsylvanians – or 1 out of every 7 residents – who are considered to be food insecure.
“On behalf of Feeding Pennsylvania and the nearly 1.8 million Pennsylvanians who are struggling with hunger every day, we are so grateful for the lean and nutritious meat that the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program provides,” said Jane Clements-Smith, executive director of Feeding Pennsylvania. “We commend HSH for 25 years of dedication and excellence in serving those most in need.”
Over the years, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) has provided funding through the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to help defray the costs of processing donated venison. Because of a significant increase in the number of deer donated to HSH over the past two hunting seasons, HSH has maxed out its allocation of TEFAP administrative funds, which were increased from $100,000 to $125,000 prior to the 2013-14 hunting season. In response to the need for more funding to cover processing costs for the 2016-2017 hunting season, PDA will increase the administrative funding cap.
“Over the past two years, hunters have significantly increased the number of donated deer, which is great news for food banks and the people they serve,” Redding added. “In anticipation of another record season for Hunters Sharing the Harvest in 2016-2017, I am pleased to announce that PDA will increase our contribution to the processing fund up to $140,000. This is an additional commitment of up to $15,000 this year to help cover the costs of processing the deer meat into the ground venison that goes into this program.”
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is the largest non-profit food distribution organization in central Pennsylvania. The food bank solicits, inventories and distributes food and other donated products to more than 900 partner agencies (food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, senior programs, childcare programs, rehabilitative programs, etc.) that directly serve people struggling with hunger. The food bank annually distributes more than 40 million pounds of food and grocery products among 27 counties.
“Our food bank is proud to host Hunter Sharing the Harvest’s 25th anniversary launch,” said Joe Arthur, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. “We are one of the largest distributors of HSH venison in our state, and we would love to have even more. We are always in need of lean, healthy protein foods for our clients, and donated venison is very popular here in the mid-state.”
Hunters interested in participating in the program can take their deer to one of 115 participating meat processors throughout the state and donate any amount of their venison to the program. Pennsylvanians can also donate money to the Buck for the Pot campaign, which supports HSH.
SOURCE: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture