ST. LOUIS, Mo. — $7 may not seem like a lot of money these days, but it can go a long way to feeding those in need, thanks to the Share the Harvest Program.
Missouri’s firearms deer season runs from Nov. 10 through Nov. 20 this year. As hunters take to the woods, they’ll be doing their part to help manage the deer herd. They can also help alleviate hunger in the St. Louis area with Share the Harvest.
The statewide Share the Harvest Program is administered by the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) and Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). The program is a cooperative effort between hunters, meat processors and local charitable organizations. It provides food to the hungry through deer meat donated by hunters. Hunters can choose to give part, or all, of any deer they take. They bring their deer to an approved meat processor to process the venison, usually into ground meat, where it is then packaged for distribution.
An antlerless deer permit cost $7, and an average field-dressed doe can yield up to 65 pounds of lean meat. More than 3.5 million pounds of venison have been donated through Share the Harvest since 1992.
Share the Harvest funds can reimburse approved processors only part of the processing fee for each whole deer given to the program. In the past, hunters have had to pay part of the processing costs for deer they donate to Share the Harvest. But a local charitable organization, Operation Food Search, is contributing additional funds when whole deer are donated to approved processors in St. Louis City and County, St. Charles and Jefferson Counties. The result is little to no cost for the hunter.
Processors partnering with Operation Food Search include:
Operation Food Search operates out of a 25,000 square foot warehouse facility in St. Louis County, complete with industrial-size freezers and refrigerators. The organization functions as a master pantry that provides food to some 300 food banks within a 75-mile radius of St. Louis. It obtains all food through private donations and delivers it to the food banks free of charge. This food ultimately reaches about 120,000 people in need each month.
Hunters wishing to donate deer meat harvested in counties where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed, which include Adair, Cedar, Cole, Franklin, Jefferson, Linn, Macon, Perry, Polk, St. Clair, or Ste. Genevieve, should note that the deer must be tested for CWD. It can only be donated to an approved processor participating in the Share the Harvest CWD-Testing Program. A list of CWD testing program processors can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ycvq83xb.
By subsidizing the cost of processing, Operation Food makes it easier for St. Louis area hunters to donate deer for the Share the Harvest Program.
To learn more about Operation Food Search, go to their website at operationfoodsearch.org/, or phone 314-726-5355. More information about the Share the Harvest Program can be found at the MDC website, https://tinyurl.com/ydcmob9x, or by calling the Conservation Federation of Missouri at 573-634-2322.