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Share the Harvest: Open Season Means Food Pantries are Open to Venison

Area hunters are stocking up on supplies, buying their hunting permits, and staking out the perfect spot for this year’s deer stand in the days leading up to open season.

Governor Jay Nixon hopes they’ll also think about donating that meat to Missouri’s hungry through the state-run Share the Harvest Program. He championed the program Tuesday during a visit to Ozarks Food Harvest in Springfield.

“Your local processor will butcher, package and store the venison until it’s delivered to a local food pantry, where the venison will be given directly to families in need,” Nixon said.

Share the Harvest is a partnership between the Conservation Federation, the Missouri Department of Conservation, food banks and food pantries, as well as meat processors.

Bart Brown is the executive director of Ozarks Food Harvest, the region’s largest food bank.

“Protein is the number one needed item, always is, for our network.  So this is a very important program for us,” said Brown.

Brown said the fact that many people receiving the meat have never cooked with venison hasn’t proven to be a stumbling block so far.

“I know that our member agencies are really good about giving folks recipes to cook with it, telling them how to reduce any kind of ‘gamey’ flavor—I  think we’ve all heard about soaking it in milk, and things like that,” Brown said.

According to the governor’s office, over 6,000 deer were processed through Share the Harvest last year in Missouri. That resulted in over a quarter of a million pounds of venison for families in need.

Click here for details on the Share the Harvest Program.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.

(KSMU’s Missy Shelton contributed to this report.)