TOP STORY >>Hunters share bounty with poor
By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer
Deer season is going strong, and so is the giving.
As area hunters are bagging their limit of legal bucks and does, many are also helping to feed other less fortunate area residents through the Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry (AHFH) program.
Managed and administered by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, AHFH has provided one million meals to the state’s most needy citizens since its start in 2002, according to Bob Barringer, a volunteer who heads the program.
“It’s going really well this season. We probably have three tons (equal to 6,000 pounds) in now and that’s from a very small percentage of our processors reporting in,” Barringer said.
The success of the program depends upon the generosity of hunters to donate venison and other wild game, cooperation from meat processors throughout the state, support from local food distribution organizations, such as the Arkansas Rice Depot and the Arkansas Food Bank, and the financial contributions of businesses, churches and others.
The Arkansas Food Bank distributes to local organizations like Fish Net Missions, Jacksonville Care Channel, and Pathfinder, Inc. The Arkansas Rice Depot serves 68 food pantries in Pulaski County, nine in White County, and five in Lonoke County.
Barringer said the program is a win, win, win situation for all involved.
“It’s a bonus for the hunter because they can fully pursue their sport and not have to worry about what to do with the meat,” Barringer said.
“It’s a win for the people of Arkansas that need help from time to time because they can’t get fresh meat that often; this gives them the opportunity to have meat on the table at Christmas.
It’s also a win for the state and the Game and Fish Commission because it maintains a healthy deer herd.”
There are 30 meat processors statewide that accept and process venison and other wild game from hunters for the program, including The Buck Stops Here in Jack-sonville and the Cabot Meat Market.
Greg McNerlin, owner of the Cabot Meat Market, 119 North Adams Street, said involvement in the program grows every year as more and more hunters learn about it.
“The end of hunting season is when we get the most deer meat donated because the hunters have already gotten all the meat they wanted to keep,” McNerlin said. “I think it (AHFH) is a great thing.”
The processors are paid to prepare the meat for distribution, which is then wrapped, frozen and boxed for distribution to a local participating charity. Only organizations can receive the meat, not individuals.
The entire deer is ground up during processing. This is done for two reasons according to Barringer.
The first is because everyone knows how to cook ground meat; the second because packages of ground meat are easier for distributing agencies to hand out.
The Buck Stops Here, 15509 Hwy. 107 in Jacksonville, also processes deer meat for AHFH, turning it all into ground hamburger because it goes a lot further that way.
According to Traci Berry of The Buck Stops Here, they donated 1,100 to 1,300 pounds of meat last year for the program, which they have been part of for the past four years, adding they “like doing something to help the community and those less fortunate than us.”
“We’ve had gobs of people donate. And they can donate just a couple of pounds if they want, not necessarily the whole deer,” Berry said.
To donate a harvested deer to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry, hunters should field dress the deer and take it to a participating meat processor; tell the processor the deer is to be donated to AHFH, and either pay for the cost of processing (usually $45-60) or have AHFH pay the processor.
If the hunter wishes to donate the entire deer, AHFH will pay the cost of processing, Barringer said.
However, AHFH encourages hunters to pay for the processing themselves as a tax-deductible donation (AHFH is a 501 C 3 charity), to enable the program to put more food on the table for those who need it most.
If the hunter only wants to donate a few pounds of venison, the hunter pays the cost of processing.