Share the Harvest helps support locals in need

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COLUMBIA - With deer season underway, hunters are welcomed to donate their extra deer meat to those in need.

Protection Regional Supervisor Tom Strother at the Missouri Department of Conservation said that years ago archery hunters in the Columbia area wanted to do something to help the needy.

"They loved to hunt, and they wanted to share their harvest with those in need," Strother said.

This led to the development of Missouri's Share the Harvest program. To donate meat, hunters must take their deer to an approved processing plant. The processor then packages and stores the meat until it's transported to a distributing agency.

Last year, Missouri hunters donated a total of 212,343 pounds of deer meat.

Food Solicitor Don Moore said The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri received around 8,700 pounds of that.

"That's about 20,000 meals," Moore said.

He said deer meat is a highly nutritious food that those in need often do not have access to.

"It's a great source of truly lean, top quality protein, which is very hard to get. We all know the cost of meat at the grocery store," Moore said.

He said the program is very beneficial because it allows hunters to exercise their hobby while benefiting society. He said it also helps maintain a healthy deer population.

Mike Bishop said having access to deer meat is great for people like himself who don't have a lot of money. He said it's better than hamburger.

"Having deer meat is real good, I like that. You can't buy deer meat in the store," Bishop said.

Strother said he has donated before.

"The program makes me feel good to be able to help those who are not as fortunate," Strother said.

If you would like to donate, you can find a participating meat processor in your area here.

Bill Crane at Crane's Meat Processing in Ashland said he will not start accepting deer meat until Oct. 1.

The Conservation Federation of Missouri and local sponsors pay for processing costs; however, when funds are not available Strother said it's the hunter's responsibility.