Hunter-Driven Food Donation Programs

Hunters are feeding the hungry, one donated whitetail at a time.

Hunter-Driven Food Donation Programs

Administered by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Conservation, the state’s Share the Harvest program helps deer hunters donate surplus venison to the needy.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about sportsmen and women, it’s that they are some of the most generous people in all of America. We are, by nature, an independent lot, mostly preferring to spend our days afield alone, or with a very few close family members and friends. Yet few, if any, large groups of people are more willing to give of their own time and resources to help game and wildlife habitat and other people in need.

After all, America’s sportsmen are the original “green” movement. How so? In 1937, with the overwhelming support of sportsman, congress passed the Pittman-Robertson Act, which levied an 11 percent tax on guns, ammunition, bows and arrows, with the funds dedicated to helping fund conservation. Altogether, it’s estimated that hunters pay nearly $8 million each and every day through the purchases of licenses, excise taxes and other special taxes such as duck stamps. Then in 1950, at the urging of anglers and other conservationists, congress passed the Dingell-Johnson Act to provide financial assistance for state fish restoration and management plans and projects. This act has been amended 11 times, the last of which was in 1992. Revenues from manufacturers’ excise taxes on sportfishing equipment, import duties on fishing tackle, yachts and pleasure craft and a portion of the gasoline fuel tax attributable to small engines and motorboats are deposited or transferred into the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund along with interest credited to the Fund.

How much money are we talking about? According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, they distributed $797.16 million in 2018 in Pittman-Robertson funds alone. That is actually the second-highest single-year allocation ever — about $11 million less than the $808.5 million apportioned in 2015. Dingell-Johnson fund distribution totaled another $351.92 million. Over the course of time, the total is more than $20.2 billion — that’s Billion, with a capital “B” — from both the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson acts to state wildlife agencies across America.

Hunters for the Hungry is but another shining example. HFTH is an initiative created by the National Rifle Association to give back to communities by supplying thousands of meals to the needy throughout the country. The NRA works closely with state agencies to put interested individuals in touch with programs in their area and foster public awareness through education, fundraising and publicity.

It’s a concept that has exploded, and it’s really simple. Many times, hunters harvest more meat than their family can consume in a year. Or, they might be traveling, and transporting the meat back to their own homes might be prohibitively expensive or impractical. Whatever the reason, these sportsmen then donate their meat to an organization that will have it packaged and delivered to a food bank for distribution and consumption. According to the NRA’s HFTH website, more than 2.1 million pounds of meat is harvested each year, and more than 8.1 million meals are provided annually by donations from hunters.

You can find Hunters for the Hungry programs in every state. Generally speaking, all game must be legally harvested, then field dressed, before being donated. Each state has different rules and regulations for donations, so check with your local drop-off location prior to donating meat. In most places I’ve donated meat it was possible to drop off the field-dressed animal at a participating butcher shop. Sometimes the program would pay for the processing, while other times I paid a nominal amount for processing, usually $50-$75, but that can vary depending on the location and program itself. The processor would provide a donation receipt and meat transfer form that showed the animal was taken legally, and that I gave my permission for the meat to be donated.

There are lots of ways to locate a Hunters for the Hungry program near you. You can contact the NRA at 1-800-492-4868, opt. 3, email them at, or visit for more information.

Another group, Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry has provided 18-plus million servings since 1997. Charity Navigator gives this group a score of 85.14 out of 100 and a 3 star rating (out of 4) with a score of 96.00 for accountability and transparency. The Safari Club International Foundation’s Sportsman Against Hunger program, which began in 1989, is another good one. Several state game and fish departments offer their own venison donation programs, too. One example is the Missouri’s Share the Harvest program.

I like to bring these facts up every time I get into a conversation with an anti-hunter or animal rightist. Most have no idea of what the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson acts are, nor are they aware of Hunters for the Hungry programs. I like to ask them — politely, of course — just how much they or their ilk have contributed for conservation, or to feed the hungry.

Have you ever participated in one of the food donation programs I’ve discussed here? If so, please share details of programs you know about with us by dropping me a note at


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.