The 2016-17 deer season is underway in Tennessee, and in the midst of the Holiday season, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry program is already seeing the signs of a big year for soup kitchens and food banks.
Of the 80 participating deer processors in 62 Tennessee counties, 78 percent have funding available that allows generous hunters to donate a deer at no cost.
“Nearly 400,000 people in our 46-county service area are at risk of hunger,” said Tracey Alderdice, senior director of agency/program services at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. “Second Harvest Food Bank’s partnership with Hunters for the Hungry is extremely beneficial because it matches resources with need. By connecting a local Department of Agriculture-approved processor with a Second Harvest Partner Agency, we’re allowing Tennessee hunters to donate meat that provides our clients with much-needed protein.”
Last year, Tennesseans provided nearly 600,000 meals through the Hunters for the Hungry program. Since 1998, the total is now more than five million meals.
With the holidays approaching, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry Manager, Matt Simcox, is reminding supporters that the Deer Coins introduced last year are available again this fall. For a $50 tax-deductible donation, which covers the cost of processing one deer, the Deer Coin can be presented as a gift for friends and family or as a challenge to another hunter.
In 18 high schools throughout the state, the Hunger Challenge has groups of students competing with each other for bragging rights. Points can be earned by speaking at events, volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating a deer and educating the public on Hunters for the Hungry. Last year, students raised more than $21,000 and volunteered over 1,000 hours.
“This program is benefitting hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans who need the help each year, and the Deer Coin and Hunger Challenge are ways to engage more people in the effort to provide more meat to the food pantries and others who need it so desperately in the cold months,” said Hunters for the Hungry Program Manager Matt Simcox. “More of our processors have funding this year to accept deer donations at no cost, so we encourage hunters to take an extra deer and give it to the hungry. Our website includes up to date information on participating processors.”