USDA sponsors many great programs like the “Feds Feed Families” employee food drive, gleaning fruit from research farms, and harvesting vegetables from the People’s Gardens to provide food for the hungry. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services (WS) program has taken a unique approach to feeding the hungry. Last year in the Eastern Region, WS donated more than 74 tons of venison to food banks and charitable organizations. WS employees are proud to be able to provide for those in need by utilizing these animals, which are lethally removed at the request of local individuals and agencies.
WS provides assistance when wildlife causes problems. In this case, the venison was collected from white-tailed deer that were taken for safety and protection purposes. The population of deer has grown from one-quarter million nationally in 1900 to more than 17 million today. Some locations request WS to remove deer to prevent wildlife strikes at airports and vehicle-deer collisions. When herds become locally over-abundant, populations also can mean damage to threatened and endangered plant species and to public and private property.
When WS conducts such operations, the deer are removed under permits issued by the State wildlife management agencies and WS makes every effort to see that the venison goes to a good cause. The venison is professionally processed at State-licensed meat processors, usually with the cost covered by those requesting the deer removal. Wildlife biologists and technicians from WS provide the meat to local food banks and charitable organizations.
Many food banks and soup kitchens are often in need of food, especially proteins. A
North Carolina wild game processor recently told WS that he was so happy WS would be bringing deer because the food banks he works with were short on supplies and asking for donations. WS is pleased to help feed those in need.
Most states also have local programs for hunters willing to donate deer taken during the hunting season. Sportsmen Against Hunger and Hunters For Hungry are two of many worthy venison donation programs.