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Program distributes donated venison to local food banks

Eric Kratzer stands for a portrait at Rising Spring Meat Company Thursday in Spring Mills. Kratzer processes donated deer, which are dropped off at Rising Spring, at his shop in Winfield.
Eric Kratzer stands for a portrait at Rising Spring Meat Company Thursday in Spring Mills. Kratzer processes donated deer, which are dropped off at Rising Spring, at his shop in Winfield. psheehan@centredaily.com

Deer hunting is a cherished pastime for many in Pennsylvania, but through a statewide nonprofit, it can also help feed the hungry.

Hunters Sharing the Harvest is a venison donation program that links hunters, who want to donate some or all of their deer harvest, to a network of butchers, which in turn helps coordinate meat deliveries to local food banks. From there, venison is distributed to more than 5,000 local food assistance provider organizations statewide.

Sponsors reimburse the butchers so that hunters don’t have to pay the cost anymore.

Since 1991, the nonprofit has distributed 1.2 million pounds of donated venison.

No donations have been made in Centre County this season yet — but there’s still time, said Sharon Nilson, county coordinator for HSH.

Archery season continues the day after Christmas until Jan. 13 statewide, and flintlock season runs the same time statewide.

Nilson started as a coordinator in October, and it’s her goal to get the county more active in HSH.

One thing the county needs is more butchers, she said.

Folks can go to Jason Monn’s Buck Stop Deer Processing in Philipsburg or drop off deer at Rising Spring Meat Company in Spring Mills. One of the employees at Rising Spring, Eric Kratzer, transports any donated deer to his family’s shop, Kratzer’s Deer Processing, in Winfield, Union County, for processing.

Rising Spring is a growing business, and it just doesn’t have the space to process the deer there anymore, said Kratzer, who’s parents have been processing deer for 40 years.

Kratzer said he likes the idea of the program.

“People like to hunt, but they don’t eat the meat themselves, and I’d rather see it go there than to waste,” he said.

Preliminary reports so far this year indicate that 12,853 pounds have been donated from 395 deer across the state. The goal each year is 100,000 pounds, Nilson said.

One deer can provide 200 meals, she said.

“I think it’s a very beneficial program as far as just getting food out to people really,” Nilson said.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz

For more information, to donate or to find a meat processor or food bank near you, visit www.sharedeer.org.

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