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Identity & Community

Hunters Encouraged to Donate Venison

As hunters prepare for the start of deer season on Monday, one group is making its annual pitch to remember Pennsylvania's hungry and donate part of their haul.

Hunters Sharing the Harvest collected nearly 100,000 pounds of donated venison last year for food pantries across the commonwealth.

Advocates say the need for venison is greater this year because of the rising cost of high-protein meats.

"Wholesale beef is up 23 percent due to a drought two years ago," said Sheila Christopher, with the Pennsylvania Association of Regional Food Banks. "Wholesale pork cost is up 56 percent due to a virus outbreak."

The Hunters Sharing the Harvest, established 23 years ago, uses a combination of tax dollars, donations and corporate sponsorships to cover their largest program expense: paying butchers to process donated meat.

Joe Arthur, executive director of Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, said he appreciates each and every donation.

"I'm a Pennsylvania kid, born and raised, grew up in a hunting family, and I know the sacrifice that it is to give up that deer," said Arthur. "It is a big deal. And we are very thankful for it."

For the first time this year, hunters who donate an entire deer won't be charged a $15 co-pay to help with processing costs.

Participating butchers are in 53 counties and can be found on the Hunters Sharing the Harvest website.