Missouri’s Share the Harvest program, a goodwill mission that allows Missouri deer hunters to donate part, if not all, of their catch to charity, was a huge success this season. 6,750 whole deer and 350,000 pounds of venison were donated through the program and went to local food banks around the state.

The lean, grass-fed, additive-free meat was tested, ground, packaged, and delivered to the food banks thanks to the volunteers who organized more than 100 participating meat packing facilities. The cost of processing the meat is covered by numerous sponsors, including sportsman’s groups like Missouri Chapter National Wild Turkey, government departments like the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), and charity organizations like the Missouri Food Banks Association.

“Hunters started Share the Harvest because they saw a need in their communities,” said MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley in a statement. ”And hunters remain the driving force behind this popular program that helps feed our fellow Missourians who are in need.”

Share the Harvest is coordinated by the MDC and the Conservation Federation of Missouri. Launched in 1992, it has seen 4.3 million pounds of venison ground, packaged and sent off to ensure that people not only have something to eat, but something that is of exceptional nutritional value.

Because there are 1.4 million whitetail deer in Missouri alone, each year around 38,000 vehicles collide with the animals along Missouri’s roads. In 2018, hunters harvested almost 300,000 of them across all seasons.

Along with helping to feed the hungry, and reducing accidents, hunters play a vitally important role in containing the spread of chronic wasting disease in the state—a ferociously contagious, prion-protein disease that infects millions of deer in the country but especially in the Midwest.

Most sportsmen will tell you that sharing their quarry with friends and family is one of the great joys of their pastime, and so it’s not surprising that Share the Harvest is only one of many hunter-food bank initiatives across the country.

Perhaps the largest, Hunters for the Hungry has prominent chapters in Virginia, Texas, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and also Missouri. Annually, 8 million pounds of venison is donated across all state chapters, creating over two million meals for America’s hungry.

This traditional way of life also contributes to less CO2 emissions, as hunting is one of the most environmentally-sustainable forms of food production. The carbon footprint from bringing this much meat to table is much smaller through hunting, than if done commercially.

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