Venison meat to be donated to Minnesota's needy
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota deer hunters could give more than 250,000 pounds of meat to the state's needy this fall. It is part of a new program to provide venison to people using food shelves around the state. "It is safe to say any time you can add a...
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota deer hunters could give more than 250,000 pounds of meat to the state's needy this fall.
It is part of a new program to provide venison to people using food shelves around the state.
"It is safe to say any time you can add a quarter a million pounds of meat ... you are giving the system a huge jolt of highly nutritious food," said Newell Searle, a Second Harvest Heartland vice president. "It is a huge donation."
To put it in perspective, the St. Paul-based Second Harvest Heartland -- which is one of the country's largest food banks and serves local food shelves from southwest Minnesota to the Twin Cities -- last year provided local food banks with 865,000 pounds of meat of all kinds.
The donations will come from hunters statewide who want to shoot more deer than they use themselves.
"We want to help out with food shelf programs and we need to kill deer," said Lou Cornicelli, Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division big game specialist.
Cornicelli expects a half million deer hunters to roam Minnesota, killing about 250,000 deer. He said about 5,000 deer probably will be donated to the program, but since this is its first year no one really knows.
About 1.2 million deer live in Minnesota.
The Legislature this year appropriated $160,000 and raised non-resident license fees to bring in another $160,000 to pay meat processors to prepare the venison.
Also, deer hunters are being asked to donate more money when they buy licenses. However, Cornicelli said, the DNR has received many reports that clerks selling deer licenses are not telling hunters about the donations.
Cornicelli expects a lot of deer donations, but is less optimistic about financial donations. Without donations, the state can pay to process about 4,000 deer.
"In the back of my mind I am a little worried because I don't know how many deer will be donated," Cornicelli added.
The next few days will determine the success of the program. Johnson estimated that more than 300,000 deer licenses would be sold between Tuesday afternoon and when firearm deer hunting season begins in much of the state on Saturday.
All money donated goes to processing deer meat. So far, more than 60 meat processors across the state have agreed to take part in the program.
For safety reasons, the program will not accept deer butchered by hunters. The DNR and processors have some suggestions about how hunters should care for deer after they are shoot, including making sure the carcasses remain cool and the hide is left on.
Hunters should contact a local processor before taking in a deer, Cornicelli said. Once a processor finishes his work, the venison is turned over to an organization that will make sure the meat goes to needy Minnesotans.