There is a program that now, in its fourth season, is beginning to gain real traction and it is a winner for sportsmen processors and our communities.
The program is called Sportsman’s Pantry, and it functions under the oversight of four sportsman’s groups, GON Network, Georgia Hunting & Fishing Federation, SafariClub International, and Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry.
But the groups are not the important story here. The real story is sportsmen like you finding a way to do what we all want done, and doing it better than it has ever been done before in Georgia, and doing it where you live and hunt.
The aim of the program is to bring together three groups at the local level. Those groups are:
• hunters willing to donate a deer to those in need,
• processors will do the work at a reduced price, and
• local approved charities who can accept the processed venison.
This program offers a number of benefits to everyone. For the hunter, there is a place local to him where deer can be donated. The local community is aware that the community is benefitting from sportsmen directly in fewer deer to dodge, and that deserving folks in their community are eating better because of sportsmen. Sportsmen shine.
Processors benefit because hunters bring them more deer and because once the deer is processed, it does not linger in the processor’s freezer for very long at all. The local charity picks up the venison within a day or two.
That is because each processor is linked with a local charity that is on-call to come and get the venison as soon as it is ready.
And each charity benefits because they get a direct infusion of the best meat protein available without having to travel long distances to one of the five food banks in Georgia, and they don’t have to pay for the venison. Typically, each food bank does charge a very modest price for meat purchased by the local charities.
When the processor needs the charity to collect venison, the processor just calls them. When the charity collects the venison, they alert Sportsman’s Pantry HQ as to the amount of venison collected and a check is cut to that processor—typically $1 per pound of venison (some processors donate all, or a portion of their labor, so in some cases the cost to the Sportsman’s Pantry is zero).
The goal is to have deer donated, processed and consumed locally.
Under the old state-supported program, neither the sportsman nor the processor knew where the venison was consumed. And the charity never knew where the venison came from.
Now there is a personal, flesh-and-blood local connection in those communities.
Included here is the preliminary list of processors accepting donations and their locations.
While this number of processors already exceeds the number of locations the old program ever had, like its predecessor, it remains an embarrassingly small number of participating processors.
But that number is growing.
The key to growth is funding. Most processors can’t afford to process 20-40 deer per year for free. And even when they ask the program for $1 per pound, that processor still needs to be supported with a budget of $1,000 to $2,000 per season.
For the Sportsman’s Pantry to come to your area, you need to hold a fund-raiser. Some fund-raisers are as simple as one person writing one check... $20 or $200, both help and you can designate the county where the funds must be used.
Additionally fund-raising events, like car washes and sportsmen’s banquets, etc., can be non-profit-sanctioned if you run the event through one of the groups overseeing it.
Experience has shown us that local people are best equipped to handle local projects, and the primary function of the four groups is simply to facilitate the event, given the events’ goal and the tax-exempt status of the four organizations.
One recent fund-raiser came from the operator of the Huddle Houses in Lakeland and Homerville where a portion of the proceeds of sales that day was donated to the Sportsmen’s Pantry program. That donation will produce 275 pounds of venison. The way the state calculates impact for their program (one pound equals five meals) that donation alone will feed 1,375 people.
Would you like to help? It does not matter if you are a sportsman, a deer processor or a charity looking for venison, contact us if you are willing to work. Together, this program can grow very quickly.
If you would like to be a part of this program, the primary contact is by email at email@example.com. Just send a note about who you are, where you are, and what you would like to do. Someone will contact you and begin to connect you with people like you who want to make this happen in your area.
Meanwhile, included here is a list of the processors already on board and funded. Sportsmen can donate venison at these processors until the funds to cover these processors’ deer donations are exhausted.