The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is celebrating its 30th year of hosting the “Share the Harvest” program, allowing deer hunters to donate surplus venison to help feed underprivileged families.
Share the Harvest is done annually in partnership with the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM). The program brought in an impressive 242,774 pounds of surplus meat this year, according to an MDC press release thanking hunters, sponsors and meat processors who contributed.
Since its introduction in 1992, Share the Harvest has provided 5 million pounds of healthy venison to help feed the less fortunate in the state of Missouri. This year, 5,053 whole deer were donated.
After the venison is processed – usually into ground meat – it is sent to select food banks, pantries, shelters and other entities that supply food for those in need across the state. Conservation agents from each county decide where the meat will end up and who needs it the most.
CFM Executive Director Tyler Schwartze told The Heartlander a portion of the funding for the program comes from the MDC and Missouri’s local food banks. The CFM then reimburses meat processors with funding it receives from donors such as Bass Pro Shops.
Additionally, hunters occasionally will cover a portion of the fees as a courtesy while the rest is picked up by the CFM, Schwartze said.
“I think the biggest advantage is neighbors helping neighbors, and they feel good about that opportunity,” said Schwartze.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), children need protein within their diet for proper human growth, nutrition and development. But in many cases, a child’s family is unable to provide adequate protein and nutrients in daily meals, and that’s where Share the Harvest benefits people the most.
“When the meat stays within the local communities, they know they are helping people in need and there are fewer deer in the landscape,” Schwartze said. “If people want to get out and deer hunt, they are having a healthier life because they are getting out, getting active and enjoying the outdoors. In return, they are helping their people in their own community who are in need of meat. So it is truly a win, win, win for everyone involved.”