The time is here for Hunters Sharing the Harvest

HARRISBURG — According to Hunters Sharing the Harvest executive director John Plowman, a lot of people and organizations share in the ongoing success of the organization

To date, since the formation of HSH in 1991, the program has generated more than 1.3 million pounds of venison donations, and much of that is the result of the hunters and landowners who permit access. Based on imaginative season-and-bag limit opportunities, more hunters can have tags, continue hunting and are donating more deer in many areas.

In 2017 the various deer seasons resulted in an all-time program record exceeding 130,927 pounds of donated venison from more than 4,000 deer. These numbers translate to generating more than 589,000 meals for Pennsylvanians fighting hunger.

Plowman said that an average-size deer can provide as many as 200 meals when the venison is ground into burger. Because of the continued support by agencies such as the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Game Commission, hunters donating a deer are not asked to pay for processing.

“Our alliances with many statewide hunting groups, including the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, has collectively made a significant difference for successfully delivering the right ethical and fair-chase deer management message via the HSH program,” Plowman said. “This nutritious meat is donated to local food banks via our processor network, and people in need are greatly helped in local communities.

“HSH effectively serves as the perfect conduit to connect the whitetail deer resource and our dedicated hunters together to help meet the nutritional needs for thousands of people fighting hunger that we’ll never know. Beginning this season, we’re entering a new alliance with the Feeding Pennsylvania Food Banks network with an additional 2,600 agency providers, meaning reaching even more people fighting hunger.

“HSH has the butchering network to handle deer donations, and the public, legislators, Pennsylvania Game Commission game wardens and our volunteer coordinators can help by alerting us to other deer processors who may want to participate. All current HSH processors, county coordinators and HSH staff contacts are listed by county as well as all other complete information is found www.sharedeer.org.”

Butler County coordinator and HSH director Tom Rossman is the Western Statewide Coordinator and he can be contacted at (724) 283-0449 or tomr2041@zoominternet.net. Dawn Smeal is the Eastern Statewide Coordinator and she can be contacted at (814) 577-6263 or DRB1073@yahoo.com.

Rossman and Smeal work directly with hunters who need assistance and in community outreach such as press releases, social media posts, fundraising opportunities and overall brainstorming sessions about the program. An updated list of deer processors can be found on the website at sharedeer.org/meat-processors.

Since 2012, HSH participating deer processors need to be inspected by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in order to donate deer to public food banks. This requirement is waived if the deer processor is currently licensed by the PDA for other retail or wholesale food or meat facility registrations.

“Because of our partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture this new scaled-down inspection requirement was developed specifically for HSH, for the convenience of our processors,” Plowman said. “By working directly with them, our intent is to minimize the inconvenience to our valued processors, make registrations as easy as possible while ensuring uniform food safety criteria and quality control in our future venison donations.

“Our goal with this requirement will yield long term positive benefits for the participating processor, as well as for the individual consumers receiving food assistance. And again for this season hunters are not required to pay a co-pay to donate a deer to the HSH program, and all readable 2018-19 season deer donor receipts returned from our processors will be entered into the gift card drawings valued at $100 each to be held in 2019.”

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Doyle Dietz is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.

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