A successful season can leave a hunter with a freezer full of venison. Too much meat, however, can leave that hunter scrambling to make room.
Thanks to local food banks, excess venison can be donated to a worthy cause: feeding the hungry and less fortunate.
The FaithCentre food pantry in Bellefonte recently decided to seek out venison that has been properly butchered and is ready to cook, Executive Director Nicole Summers said.
“We’ve had people who donated in the past,” Summers said. “We had some bologna donated last year that was very popular.”
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As long as it’s processed and wrapped, the donations can come in whatever form contributors prefer — such as steaks, sausages, burgers and bologna — FaithCentre board of directors President Stephanie Cooper said.
“It’s the same as if someone donated a cow or a pig from the Grange Fair,” Cooper said.
The food bank showed an interest in venison donations a few years ago, but never made any push, Summers said. This is the first year it is making a serious effort to get donations, according to Cooper.
In Philipsburg, it’s been a long time since the Central Pennsylvania Community Action office has received deer meat donations, supervisor Robin Knepp said, but that doesn’t mean they won’t accept them.
“The elderly will still ask,” Knepp said. “Those who haven’t been able to go out hunting in a while. So there is a demand for it.
“We have plenty of empty freezer space,” she said.
On a larger scale, Hunters Sharing the Harvest, a program that encourages hunters to donate their deer to food banks, celebrated its 23rd year of donating venison to the needy.
Although no butchers or food banks in Centre County participate in the program directly, Centre County hunters can take part through neighboring Huntingdon County.
According to Centre County Sharing the Harvest coordinator Mark Banker, the closest participating processor is Brenneman’s Meat Market in Huntingdon.
“I have a sense there’s a fair amount of people who take advantage of the program,” Banker said. “I had people telling me during archery season they were going to donate.”
Brenneman’s Manager Chrysta Swanger said the $15 copay for processing a deer has been lifted this year, meaning there’s no fee to the hunter. The store asks that the deer be field dressed so it can be skinned, processed and ground up for donation at the end of December.
Donations go to food banks in Huntingdon County.