Hunting program helps midstate food bank

wcrenshaw@macon.comOctober 27, 2013 

Ronald Raleigh is not a hunter, but he might have been as happy as one to see deer season start.

Raleigh is director of the Middle Georgia Community Food Bank, which previously received about 2,000 pounds of meat annually from the Hunters for the Hungry program. The program shut down two years ago due to a lack of funding but is coming back this year, and it means a lot to Raleigh.

“I love to see it come back,” he said. “I hope it comes back as strong as ever. We can definitely use the extra meat.”

The program is operated by the Georgia Wildlife Federation and previously generated 25,000 pounds of meat statewide annually. Hunters would donate the deer carcasses, and the Georgia Wildlife Federation would pay the $1.50 per pound processing fee.

The program stopped two years ago because the organization no longer could afford to pay the processing fee, said Sam Stowe, GWF’s director of marketing. However, it is returning this year because the Wal-Mart Foundation gave $35,000 to pay for the processing.

All of the meat distributed through the organization is ground meat. Stowe said it packs a powerful food punch because it’s lean and high in protein.

“A lot of needy Georgians are being fed on that 25,000 pounds,” Stowe said.

He said many hunters on doe days will shoot an extra doe that they otherwise wouldn’t, so they can donate it.

The meat can be donated only at certain processors, which must be licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The two nearest to Macon are Barlow’s Meat Processing in Eastman and Starley’s Deer Processing in Irwinton.

Greg Barlow, owner of Barlow’s Meat Processing, said he has processed about 100 pounds of donated meat so far this year. Firearms season for deer began Oct. 19.

People apparently have no qualms about deer meat. The Middle Georgia Community Food Bank distributes food to about 250 organizations and programs that work with the needy, and Raleigh said he hasn’t had a single one decline the deer meat.

“It is so rich and lean,” Raleigh said. “It makes a good meat loaf. People are really appreciative.”

There will actually be two programs this year in which hunters can donate deer meat to charity. When Hunters for the Hungry shut down, the Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation started Sportsman’s Pantry to fill the void, and that program will continue. Raleigh said he didn’t receive any meat from that organization, however. Sportman’s Pantry is done in conjunction with the Georgia Outdoor News Network, Safari Club International, and Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry.

Hunters can find a full list of the processors for Hunters for the Hungry by going to the Georgia Wildlife Federation’s website at www.gwf.org. The processors for Sportman’s Pantry can be found at the Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation’s website, www.gh-ff.org.

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