Wild Game is a renewable resource
Photos by Mark Kayser

Wild game is a renewable resource and is deliciously healthy. Consider donating your extra game animals to feed hungry people in your community.

Get in the game; feed the hungry


Do you shoot more game than you or your family can eat over the course of a year? Have you found yourself wondering what to do with that extra white-tailed doe you tagged to help manage deer populations on your property? If so, you may be just the person to help with the ongoing hunger problem in America.

Like all statistical data, the numbers of hungry in America stir debate. Government numbers declare that 14.5 percent of U.S. households were “food insecure,” which worked out to be 17.6 million homes in 2012. Other studies point out more than 30 million Americans go to bed hungry every day. Whether or not you believe those exact numbers, you can’t debate there are people in your community who need nutritional assistance. Help them out by donating some of the most nutritious food available: wild game.

The white-tailed deer population has exploded to an estimated 30 million animals cross the continent. When you combine the extraordinary whitetail population with more than 10 million deer hunters — many toting more than one deer tag — a major force to defeat hunger emerges.

The logic continues when you consider protein is most often the ingredient missing from plates and many food donation centers. Protein, especially the red meat variety, is the most expensive item in a grocery cart, despite the millions of domestic livestock animals slaughtered annually for consumption.

Photos by Mark Kayser

Wild game is a renewable resource and is deliciously healthy. Consider donating your extra game animals to feed hungry people in your community.

Wild game donations fill the protein gap and allow cash donations at food banks to be used elsewhere. Plus, protein from wild game is healthy. Depending on the grade of beef you purchase, store-bought meat may have 200 percent more fat and nearly 130 percent more cholesterol per serving than a comparable serving of venison. Lower fat and cholesterol is a bonus since nearly 70 percent of Americans over 20 are classified as overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Game to table

So, how do you, as a hunter, get extra wild game from the field to the hungry? Simple: Private organizations and state wildlife agencies coordinate game donations. Safari Club International started its Sportsmen Against Hunger program in 1989, becoming one of the early leaders in organizing wild game donations. Since then, the program has grown to include active donations in all 50 states, parts of Canada and several countries across the globe. Amazingly, tens of millions of meals are served annually with the assistance of SCI. Few organizations can claim that kind of impact on needy families.

Another group with firm foundations in America is the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program. Founder Rick Wilson was sparked to action in 1997 after seeing a woman trying to retrieve a road-kill deer. Wilson pulled over to help, and the woman explained her situation. She planned to feed the deer to her fatherless children. After hearing her desperate circumstances, Wilson believed farmers and hunters could feed the hungry in any given community.

FHFH, along with its sponsors, has put more than 14 million meals on the tables of hungry families. It’s a perfect example of how farmers with deer depredation issues can work with hunters to provide a protein staple for families in need.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources oversees the Help Us Stop Hunger program. It is a cooperative effort among deer hunters, the Food Bank of Iowa, meat lockers and the Iowa DNR. It has two main goals: The Iowa DNR is in the business of managing deer and HUSH aids in that goal. Second, it brings high-quality red meat to hungry Iowa families.

Participating meat lockers skin, bone and grind the meat into two-pound packages of venison. From there, local social service agencies distribute the venison to people in need.

Wild game in a freezer
Photos by Mark Kayser

Cleaning out your freezer mid-summer provides venison to food pantries when stocks are low.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be hunting season to donate. You could do a midsummer check of your freezer and discover you didn’t eat as much venison as you imagined. To make room for the coming season, you should consider a donation when many food banks are at their lowest inventory. It also works well for many charity organizations, since they can’t always handle the amount of venison donated during hunting season. They may, however, accommodate it during the slow summer months, when venison donations nearly halt.

Wild game is a renewable resource that provides families with a great addition to any meal. If you have extra wild game from future hunts, consider a donation. Your deer may just be the healthy ingredient to keep a local family nourished. — Mark Kayser

Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry

Safari Club International Sportsmen
Against Hunger