A program which provides the biggest red meat donation of the year to the state’s food bank got another boost on Wednesday. Officials from the DNR and the Tomblin Administration presented a check for $70,000 to the Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway to help fund the Hunters Helping the Hungry program.
“The food bank was hard hit this year due to the storm and then by the hurricane,” said DNR Director Frank Jezioro. “Their stock was pretty well depleted so certainly we’re hoping this will help.”
The Hunters Helping the Hungry program allows hunters to donate any deer they don’t want to be used to feed the needy in West Virginia. Hunters drop off the deer at a participating meat processor. There it is ground and packaged in two-pound packs to be distributed at various food outlets for the needy all across West Virginia.
“This is some of the best protein an individual can have,” Jezioro said. “It doesn’t have any of the growth hormones or feed supplements generally associated with domesticated livestock. This is pure protein.”
Although the DNR administers the program they are prevented by law from using any wildlife agency funds to pay for it. The program is funded exclusively by donations. The $70,000 donation from Tuesday was a result of the “Governor’s One Shot Whitetail Hunt” staged in October. The annual event started under Governor Joe Manchin and has been continued by Governor Tomblin. Participants donate money for a one day hunting trip with a guide on private land in West Virginia during the antlerless hunting season and gather for an evening meal during the event. This year’s hunt drew nearly 50 participants including many from the coal, oil, timber, and gas industries.
“I know people give the extraction industries heck in this state,” said Jezioro. “But they were among the first to step up and want to participate.”
Since 1992, the HHH program has provided more than one-Million meals of venison to the needy in West Virginia. Jezioro said the impact of donations was most recognizeable during an event at the Mountaineer Food bank in 2011 when a lady with two children spoke to him.
“She said a lot of people may not realize this, but this venison we get is basically the only protein my family gets in the entire year,” Jezioro recalled. “That was a pretty profound statement.”