Feeding America cites that “In West Virginia, 242,180 people are facing hunger – and of them 68,310 are children.” Rising meat prices over the past year are making this protein source unobtainable for many households. A solution for these problems can be as close as the nearest forest, state park or hunting preserve.
The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (WVDNR) determined “hunters harvested 99,437 white-tailed deer in West Virginia during the 2019-20 seasons,” which filled many home freezers, but some hunters donned blaze orange and took to the fields armed with a giving spirit.
For the past 30 years, “hunters, financial contributors and participating processors have enabled the processing of 27,566 deer. With their generosity and the assistance of two area food banks, 1,046,697 pounds of highly nutritious meat has been provided to needy families and individuals” throughout the state with the WVDNR’s Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH) Program.
Kindhearted hunters with HHH take their deer to participating meat processors to be ground, packaged and frozen. Venison can be handled locally in Monroe County by Mann’s Meat Processing in Lindside (Zach Mann at 304-320-2035) and by the Pocahontas County FFA in Dunmore (Erwin Berry at 304-799-6564).
Once processed, someone from the “Mountaineer Food Bank or Facing Hunger Foodbank, both members of Feeding America, pick up the venison and distribute it to the needy through their statewide network of 600 charitable food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers, shelters, community centers, orphanages, missions and churches.”
“West Virginia is fortunate to have the generous support of its hunting community,” notes the WVDNR. “The HHH Program has the potential to donate thousands of pounds of venison to the needy on an annual basis, making it a worthwhile program.”
Although venison is donated, there is still a substantial cost to keep the program operating—the total price tag has averaged $42,953.64 over the past seven years, and WVDNR is restricted from using sportsmen’s license dollars to fund HHH, leaving the agency to “rely on the generosity of concerned individuals, businesses, conservation organizations, foundations and churches.”
To keep HHH going year after year, the Governor’s One-Shot Hunt, and Share the Harvest Sunday serve as fundraisers.
“The Governor’s One-Shot Hunt, an antlerless deer hunt that began in 2007, provides a source of venison and funding to the program,” according to the WVDNR. “The West Virginia Council of Churches holds an annual Share the Harvest Sunday during the first Sunday in November. On that day, approximately 3,000 participating churches ask their congregations to donate $1, $5, or any amount they can afford to the HHH Program.”
Churches wishing to join the effort can contact the Mountaineer Food Bank at 304-364–5518 or the DNR District 3 Office at 304-924–6211.
Monetary donations are also accepted from individuals, churches, organizations and businesses to insure the perpetuation of the HHH Program.
Checks and money orders should be made out to Hunters Helping the Hungry and mailed to: Hunters Helping the Hungry, WV Division of Natural Resources, 163 Wildlife Road, French Creek, WV 26218.
For more information regarding the HHH Program, contact Trevor Moore at 304-924–6211 or Trevor.M.Moore@wv.gov.
Visit WVDNR.org for deer hunting seasons, dates for the Governor’s One-Shot Hunt, a complete list of participating processing sites, and applicable hunting rules and regulations.
Hunting has provided food for nearly 12,000 years and it will certainly provide sustenance for many, many, more generations to come. Make this the year to enjoy this outdoor sport while reducing the number of hungry families in the Mountain State.