It’s not hard to find lots of think pieces on either the merits of hunting or the injustices of this American tradition. A simple Google search renders this as truth. But take a community of hungry people and pair them with a tribe of modern-day hunters, and suddenly anti-hunting sentiment is bleached colorless, void of anything substantive or persuasive.
Such is the case in Michigan where the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger donate whitetail deer to underprivileged Michigan families.
“I’ve become a big fan of the venison that’s offered here,” Metro Detroit resident Marilyn Rimkus told the Michigan Wildlife Council. Rimkus depends on the wild game she receives from the Heritage Church food pantry. “This is premium, lean, organic meat and I’m glad I was introduced to it. I wish the stuff I bought at the store was this good. A lot of small families in the area are still having a rough time of it. We’re lucky to have this program.”
According to the Detroit Free Press which cited data from 24/7 Wall St., a New York-based financial news organization, Metro Detroit was ranked as the fifth most impoverished city behind four other metro areas:
Bakersfield, California, No. 1; Fresno, California, No. 2; Springfield, Massachusetts, No. 3, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, No. 4. Metro Detroit was ranked ahead of: Youngstown, Ohio, No. 6; Toledo, No. 7; Sacramento, California, No. 8; Oklahoma City, No. 9., and Phoenix, No. 10.”
A separate report by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which was cited in the article published by the Detroit Free Press, found the poorest residents in southeast Michigan have a life expectancy rate significantly lower than the poor of comparable incomes in other major metro areas.
“The poorest residents in southeast Michigan — a 10-county region that included metro Detroit and Flint — found residents live, on average, six years fewer than the poorest in metro New York.”
Since 1991, Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger has been working to connect donors, processors and food pantries, the Michigan Wildlife Council reports. “The program is 100 percent volunteer-driven, led by sportsmen and sportswomen who harvest deer both during regular hunting season and during special off-season cull efforts, which occur when deer become a nuisance to farms or neighborhoods. These management practices help the deer by keeping their populations healthy, and benefit people by helping to fight local hunger. This year the organization has already donated 34,000 pounds of venison to pantries – roughly enough for 136,000 meals – which is almost 15 percent more than was distributed in all of 2017.”
Venison donated is ground into hamburger by local wild game processors, who receive a stipend for every pound of meat they create from the deer. That meat is then frozen in tubes and distributed well past the end of hunting season into these warm spring and summer months.
“Word is getting out, and the program is picking up steam, so we have a lot to be thankful for,” said Dean Hall, president of Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger. “We’re still trying to get more processors in as part of the program – we only have 37 who participate, out of more than 700 in the state. But thanks to the hunters who contribute, there’s no shortage of venison coming in, and that’s great for people who rely on food pantries.”
Michigan hunters who want to donate their deer can find a participating processor by calling (586) 552-6517 or by visiting the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger website. Non-hunters can also contribute by making a tax-deductible contribution online or by sending a check to P.O. Box 5127, Warren, MI 48090.
To learn more about donating game meat in your state, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation provides information here. You can also check with your state’s wildlife agency for information on how to donate locally.