Over the past three decades, Pennsylvania hunters have helped feed their friends and neighbors with the Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) program.

Since 1991, the venison donation program allows hunters to share their extra venison through a statewide network of participating butchers to food pantries and community assistance centers across Pennsylvania. The program has distributed 2 million pounds of donated venison since its inception in 1991. For each deer donated, 200 meals can be created.

Thousands of Pennsylvania hunters have been in the woods for weeks during archery season, but even more so with the start of the two-week rifle season last weekend. Many of those hunters use their harvest to help feed their families throughout the year.

Many also donate to the statewide program. Last year, hunters donated 187,426 pounds of venison — 4,691 deer statewide — to support the HSH program. The numbers were in line with previous years’ totals, a generous total considering the Pennsylvania Game Commission says the state’s annual deer harvest is down more than 10 percent annually.

“These continued outstanding season donation numbers tell us that Pennsylvania hunters are becoming more aware of our mission and are taking advantage of the opportunity to donate deer in excess of what their families can consume,” said Randy Ferguson, executive director of Hunters Sharing the Harvest. “Our committed network of participating processors, area coordinators, food banks, funding partners and individual donors have created a model that is making a real difference in the lives of the food insecure in Pennsylvania. The public sees these results in their local communities and recognizes the sharing nature of the deer hunting community.”

The HSH program is a coordinated effort of nearly 100 participating deer processors who accept donated deer from hunters and process the deer into one-, two- and five-pound packages of ground venison for distribution to regional food banks and food pantries.

In the Valley Kratzer Meats in Winfield is one of the participating deer processors, according to sharedeer.org.

“The value of the generosity of Pennsylvania hunters cannot be overstated,” said Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Thanks to their selfless donations, nearly 1 million additional servings of food are available for food-insecure Pennsylvanians.”

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Editor William Bowman.

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