It's a question we hear often during this time of year.
"What are you going to do with all of that meat?”
If you’ve been lucky enough to fill multiple tags this season, you may be asking it to yourself.
The worst thing we can do is waste our harvest. Tossing deer meat in the trash should make you cringe. With 450,000 of our neighbors depending on food banks each month, it is absolutely absurd to waste any meat.
Fortunately, Pennsylvania’s hunters have a simple and effective program to help them donate excess meat to those who desperately need it. The program is known as Hunters Sharing the Harvest. It’s celebrating its 23rd year of getting venison to the state’s hungry citizens.
Last year, hunters donated some 2,400 deer to the program. It resulted in 97,000 pounds of much-needed healthy, organic meat going straight to the state’s food banks. The group aims to eclipse the 100,000-pound benchmark this year.
If you want to help, the process is simple. All you have to do is take your deer to a participating processor and tell them how much you want to donate. You can give all of your meat or donate just a portion of it.
And, in a new development announced last year, it will no longer cost you a penny if you want to participate. Thanks to major sponsorships from the state’s natural gas industry, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and a host of hunting clubs and private donors, there is no longer a processing fee. In other words, there’s no excuse not to donate.
Even if you're not a hunter, or if you simply don’t have extra meat to donate, it's still possible to contribute to the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program. After all, cash donations play a huge role in the program.
According to organizers, a tax-deductible donation of $25 will cover the processing fee for half of a deer and will provide enough meat for approximately 100 meals. A $50 donation will provide enough meat for about 200 meals.
There are more of our neighbors in need of a hot meal than many of us suspect or dare to admit. It’s too easy to overlook them or assume somebody else will help. As hunters, I say we're not only perfectly equipped to help, but we’re also obligated to do our part. Why not share our good fortune and abundance with them?
It’s morally wrong to simply hunt a trophy and let the meat go to waste — any of the meat. So the next time somebody asks you what you’re going to do with all that meat … have a great answer for them.
For information on local processors or how to donate to the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program, check out its website: www.sharedeer.org.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.