Hunters can donate any of their legally killed deer from the two week buck season, the week long antlerless season, and the week long muzzleloader season to the program. Certified USDA or state inspected meat processors accept the deer, and then process it into two-pound ground meat packages. The meat is then distributed to various food banks, soup kitchens, and other food distribution outlets for the needy across the state.
Last year, hunters donated more than 12-hundred deer to the program. Jerry Westfall coordinates the program for the West Virginia DNR and says that represents the single largest donation of red meat to those programs every year.
"It is in many instances. We’re seeing folks use these institutions more and more in a down turned economy. Often times, red meat is in short supply at these institutions," said Westfall.
The program was created in 1992.
"Some of these states that abandoned their program, I think they jumped the gun before there were studies out indicating full lead levels in some of these animals," said Westfall. "We use only certified processors, so their facility is inspected and they do a real good job of cutting out portions of meat that bullets have penetrated."
Although the donations of deer have been strong, the program has always struggled in the area of money. By law, the DNR license dollars cannot be used to pay for the program. Therefore, the agency relies on monetary donations to fund the program.