Targeting Hunger: Hunters donate venison for distribution at local food pantryBy Lauren Moore Editorial Assistant Despite what Bambi might have you believe, hunters are not the enemy. Local hunters are utilizing their sport to give back to the less fortunate through Hunters Helping the Hungry, an organization that provides venison, or deer meat, to a local food bank to be distributed to low-income families in the area. Hunters Helping the Hungry was founded in 1997 by Les Giese, Mike Aversa and Joe Schultz with two goals in mind: combating the overpopulation of deer in the area while providing the less fortunate with a healthy source of nutrients. Schultz, a member of Immaculate Conception Parish, Annandale, said he recognized a need while helping less fortunate families through church groups. “I could see that needy families could utilize the protein [in venison]. We have the available resources, so why not utilize them and help the community?” he said. So far, Schultz donated two deer this season. He has been hunting for more than 40 years, and has been “from Saskatchewan to Africa, and everywhere in between.” When hunting abroad, Schultz donates all of the meat he hunts to the locals in need. Distributing the goods Giese, Aversa and Schultz contacted Northwest New Jersey Community Action Program, a private, non-profit corporation that serves the low-income population of Hunterdon, Warren and Sussex Counties and asked if their food bank would like to distribute venison. NORWESCAP said yes, and since the program’s inception, Hunters Helping the Hungry has donated more than 219,000 pounds of venison, providing approximately 876,000 servings to feed hungry people in the community. NORWESCAP distributes nearly two million pounds of food each year to more than 120 food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, on-site feeding programs, child care centers, senior centers and programs for the disabled. One of the food pantries receiving aid from NORWESCAP is the Catholic Charities Food Pantry in Phillipsburg. As the largest food pantry in Warren County, Catholic Charities’ Phillipsburg food pantry serves approximately 500 families a month, a number that is increasing all the time. Mercy Sister Michaelita Popovice, program director of Worn Basic Material Needs, said that the food pantry saw 42 new families in November 2008, and that clientele has increased 40 percent since 2007. “It’s unbelievable, that every day we see new people that have never been here before and are coming because they just don’t have resources to purchase their own food,” she said. According to Sister Michaelita, venison is a popular item with the pantry’s clientele. Statistics gathered Dec. 29 indicate that approximately 40 percent of food pantry clients received venison. “Clients generally are grateful for it. I feel the venison is really beneficial to our clients, particularly health-wise. We want to give nutritious things out and we make it a point to try to do that. We’re interested in their health,” she said. Aversa, a member of St. Joseph Parish, High Bridge, affirms the benefits of incorporating venison into one’s diet. “We actually don’t buy any red meat, everything we eat is venison,” he said. Any dish that can be made with red meat can be made with venison, including tacos, meatloaf, meatballs, steaks, Italian sausage and burgers. Theresa, a client who receives venison through the food pantry, grew up in the Nuamgola area of Pennsylvania, and venison was a staple in her diet. She refers to the venison she receives from Catholic Charities as a “wonderful treat.” “I am so grateful for the hunters who donate their time and skills to us by way of the food pantry,” she said. Venison is typically available to food pantry clientele from October through March. Environmentally friendly According to Schultz, the program is not only advantageous for the hungry, but is beneficial to the local ecosystem. Deer will eat anything from ground level to five feet above ground level, which destroys the habitats of ground nesting birds, chipmunks and squirrels, thus rendering them unable to raise their young and making them more susceptible to predators such as foxes, owls and hawks. “Those little three-ounce birds are just as important to the environment as anything else,” Schultz said. Schultz added that the deer eat acorns, which hinders the growth of new oak trees and leaves smaller woodland animals without food. “Now, there are no young oak trees to take the place of old trees that die or become damaged, and there’s no cover for birds, chipmunks and squirrels. A small rock rolling down a hill quickly turns into a landside,” he said. If the deer population is not controlled through hunting, the only way the population will level off will be due to starvation and bad winters. For more information on Hunters Helping the Hungry, visitwww.huntershelpingthehungry.org. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to Hunters Helping the Hungry P.O. Box 587, Lebanon NJ 08833. Catholic Spirit January 21 2010 Issue http://www.diometuchen.org/deptsministries/the-catholic-spirit/archives/issues-10/January-21,-2010/Targeting-Hunger-Hunters-donate-venison-for-distribution-at-local-food-pantry-7154/
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