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Share the Harvest gives quarter-million pounds of venison to feed hungry

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Processing and packaging venison for future meals are the final steps of a successful deer hunt. People can get tips on processing venison at the Missouri Department of Conservation's "Field to Freezer" program at the Wildcat Glade Conservation and Audubon Center in Joplin.

Processing and packaging venison for future meals are the final steps of a successful deer hunt. People can get tips on processing venison at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s “Field to Freezer” program at the Wildcat Glade Conservation and Audubon Center in Joplin.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — More than 4,500 deer hunters donated more than a quarter-million pounds of venison (228,306 pounds) from last season’s deer harvest to the state’s Share the Harvest program. The donated deer meat will help feed hungry Missourians all around the state.

Share the Harvest is coordinated by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM). It works by deer hunters donating their extra venison to participating meat processors throughout the state who grind the deer meat into one-pound packages. The packaged venison is then given to food banks and food pantries for distribution to Missourians in need of food assistance.

The program coordinates the efforts of thousands of hunters, more than 100 participating meat processors, numerous local supporting organizations, and about a dozen statewide sponsors.

Processing fees are covered entirely or in part by numerous local sponsors, along with statewide sponsors that include: MDC, CFM, Shelter Insurance, Bass Pro Shops, Missouri Chapter Safari Club International, Missouri Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation, Midway USA Inc., Missouri Food Banks Association, United Bowhunters of Missouri, Missouri Trappers Association, the Missouri Hunter Education Instructors Association, and the Walmart Foundation.

Share the Harvest is administered by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Conservation to help feed hungry Missourians. The program works by hunters donating harvested deer meat to participating meat processors who then prepare the donated venison by grinding it into one-pound packages that are given to local food banks and food pantries.

Share the Harvest is administered by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Conservation to help feed hungry Missourians. The program works by hunters donating harvested deer meat to participating meat processors who then prepare the donated venison by grinding it into one-pound packages that are given to local food banks and food pantries.

Since the program was started in 1992, Share the Harvest has provided more than 3.5 million pounds of lean, healthy venison to help feed hungry Missourians.

Missouri’s Share the Harvest program helps deer hunters donate surplus venison to the needy. This program is administered by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Conservation. In 2014, 3,961 hunters donated 212,343 pounds of venison.

Donating is easy

Simply take your deer to an approved meat processor and let the processor know how much venison you wish to donate. The processor will package the meat, which will be picked up by local sponsoring organizations and taken to a charitable agency for distribution.

Processing funds are available at some local processors

Get help with processing costs when you donate a whole deer during all portions of the archery and firearms deer seasons. The Conservation Federation of Missouri reimburses processors a pre-determined amount for each whole deer donated. This allows processors to reduce processing fees to hunters. In addition, many processors have local money available that allows deer to be processed for free or at reduced cost. Be sure to contact individual processors to determine if funds are available. The cost of processing the deer is your responsibility when local funds to help cover the full cost are not available.

Costs are covered during the urban zones portion

During the urban zones portion, the entire processing cost for whole deer donations is paid by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and local sponsors. To have processing costs covered during the urban zones portion, you must take your deer to a participating processor in the urban zones area. Not every processor listed in the table participates in this portion. For a list of those that do, contact your regional Conservation Department office.

Why Share the Harvest?

The National Institutes of Health state that children need protein in their diets for proper growth and development, and adults need it to maintain good health. Yet many Missourians and their families can’t afford or can’t get to good sources of protein. Through Share the Harvest, Missouri hunters can help provide those in need with high-quality protein in the form of deer meat, which is naturally lean.

Who can get the meat?

Any Missourian who needs it. Adults or families can get in touch with a participating distributing agency, and the agency will allocate the venison according to its supply.

How do hunters donate venison to the program?

It’s easy to donate. Hunters take their deer to an approved processing plant and simply tell the processor how much venison they wish to donate. The hunter has the option of donating a few pounds or the whole deer. There is no price reduction for partial donations. The processor then packages and stores the meat until it’s transported to a distributing agency by the coordinator. Agencies receiving venison will distribute it to ensure that all venison is used and is goes to where it serves the greatest need.

How can my organization get involved?

You can get involved as a member of almost any club or organization that would like to work with the Share the Harvest program. Sponsoring volunteer clubs are vital to this project. They provide promotion and manpower on a local level to a program that addresses the needy in their area. In addition many local groups provide additional funding to augment the moneys paid by the Conservation Federation on the donation of whole deer. Raising local funds greatly increases donations.

How to get Share the Harvest started in your area

  1. Clubs or organizations wishing to coordinate the Share the Harvest program in their area may contact a conservation agent in their county or the Conservation Department at the address on the back panel. Agencies that distribute venison also may fulfill the role of coordinator.
  2. Distributing agencies should be nonprofit charitable organizations. They must have proper storage for the meat and agree to distribute uncooked venison directly to families or individuals.
  3. The coordinator should locate a deer processor who agrees to participate in Share the Harvest. Processors also must be a government-inspected facility.
  4. Once agreements are made with coordinator, deer processors and distributing agencies, permission must be obtained from the Conservation Department to conduct a Share the Harvest program.
  5. After the local conservation agent approves the coordinator’s choice of meat processors and distributing agencies, the coordinator will receive written authorization and instructions.

Share the Harvest Guidelines

  1. Requests to participate in Share the Harvest should be submitted to the director of the Conservation Department through a local conservation agent. Requests must include names of participating meat processors and the distributing agency.
  2. Meat processors must be licensed by the Conservation Department to process deer and be subject to government health inspection, or be approved by the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Meat Inspection Program.
  3. State and local health regulations must be followed.
  4. A conservation agent must initially approve the coordinator, processors and distributing agency.
  5. Only venison from white-tailed deer legally taken in Missouri will be accepted.
  6. Donated venison must be processed at approved meat processing facilities.
  7. Records detailing number of donors, pounds of donated venison, and charitable recipient group must be kept by the coordinator, and submitted to the local conservation agent no later than Feb. 1.
  8. Donated venison must be stored and transported in department-provided plastic bags that display the Share the Harvest logo, or in approved containers clearly marked with Share the Harvest labels.
  9. Venison may not be served cooked by the distributing agency, and must be frozen at some time prior to being eaten.
  10. All donated venison must be distributed by May 1.
  11. Approval for participation is required annually.

If you want a successful Share the Harvest program:

Knowledgeable, enthusiastic processors are a vital key to a successful program. Likewise the coordinating organization needs to take an active role in promoting the program. Having volunteers available at deer processing plants during the firearms deer season to personally contact hunters, hand out literature and answer questions about the program will greatly increase donations. However, don’t interfere with the meat processor’s business.

For more information on the Share the Harvest program, contact:

Share the Harvest
Missouri Department of Conservation
P.O. Box 180
Jefferson City, M0 65102-0180
573-751-4115
Conservation Federation of Missouri
728 West Main
Jefferson City, MO 65101
573-634-2322
www.confedmo.org

Sponsors

State-wide sponsors of the cost-reduction program include the Conservation Department, Shelter Insurance, Bass Pro Shops, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, Missouri Chapter Whitetails Unlimited, Missouri Chapter Safari Club International, Missouri Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation, Drury Hotels, Midway USA Inc., Missouri Deer Hunters Assoc. and Missouri Food Banks Association.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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