Pennsylvania hunters looking to make a difference can always donate their deer, they just can't do it here.
Through the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program, sportsmen can donate all or part of their deer to a participating processor who will, after processing, donate the venison to Pennsylvania food banks, soup kitchens and pantries.
"Hunger is a reality for more than 600,000 Pennsylvania families who wonder how they'll find their next meal," Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary George Greig said in November during the program kickoff event in Enola. "I encourage all hunters to donate venison this holiday season."
Unfortunately, in Warren County, that's easier said than done. Warren County doesn't have a program coordinator or any deer processors who are involved with the program. Further, only two neighboring counties Erie and Crawford do have processors.
Hunters are asked to make a tax-deductible donation of at least $15 when they donate an entire deer to help cover processing costs. A $1.25 per pound reimbursement to processors from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture through the Federal Emergency Food Assistance Program supplements donations. All other costs are covered by the program.
From there, emergency food assistance agencies pick up the meat from the processor for distribution to families.
"Usually the butcher contacts the local food charities," John Plowman, executive director with Hunters Sharing the Harvest, noted. "They come and get it. They pick it up and they write a receipt. Then they distribute it."
The program has coordinators in 53 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties working with 90 deer processors to provide food to more than 4,000 emergency food assistance agencies, but none of them are located in Warren County.
"The butchers are a key component as are the distributors," Plowman said. "They do a wonderful job."
Plowman recounted he has already gotten a call from a sportsman hunting in Warren County and interested in the program this year. According to Plowman, he had to advise the individual, who is from Cleveland, to drop the deer off at an Erie County processor on his way home.
"So there's someone whose deer went out of the county," Plowman said. "We have no representative in Warren County and no butchers. In fact, we've never had a butcher in Warren County."
For more information on the program, visit the Hunters Sharing the Harvest website at www.sharedeer.org.
Individuals interested in becoming processors can call Plowman at 1-717-545-1188 or toll-free at 1-866-474-2141 or visit the website.
Interested processors must be inspected by the state Department of Agriculture unless otherwise licensed by the department through other retail or wholesale food or meat facility registrations.
"It's going to take the initiative of someone up there to fix the fix problem," Plowman said. "I'd love to get a call from a good butcher in Warren County."