The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is asking Iowa hunters to donate some of the deer they shoot this year to help feed the hungry. The program called “Help Us Stop Hunger” or “HUSH” expands a pilot program started in Des Moines. D-N-R director Jeff Vonk says the statewide deer population has exploded, prompting the department to issue 30-thousand more licenses for female deer. Vonk says they’re asking hunters who get enough venison for their own use to donate the rest a participating local locker in one of 55 central and southeast Iowa. The lockers will process the meat and send it to the Food Bank of Iowa for distribution to the needy. Vonk says the key to expanding the program was getting donations to pay the lockers to process the meat. Vonk says it costs about 50 dollars to process each deer and several groups have pledged money to help pay that cost, including the Iowa Farm Bureau which kicked in 15-thousand dollars. Vonk says hunters can legally take up to six deer — more than enough for them and a donation. Hunters will also be asked to donate five dollars to the effort when they purchase their hunting licenses. Karen Ford is the executive director of the Food Bank of Iowa. She says the beauty of the program for them is the program works through their existing distribution system and their agencies are excited about the availability of nutritious, low-fat red meat.Ford says they’ve looked for a way to take advantage of the excess amount of deer meat that’s out there, but it took this coalition to finally pull it together. She says it is a little different from the normal food donations they get.She says when they first got some venison in small quantities, she didn’t think anyone would want it. Ford says she was proven wrong as they got lots of compliments about the meat. Ford says they’ll offer recipes for cooking the meat that’ll be sent out in three-pound packages. Ford says any type of food donation is welcome.She says there’s still the phenomena of the “working poor,” people who go out and work and still come home without enough money to buy food. Ford says the need hasn’t gone down. Tim Anderson is the marketing director of store, Hunter Specialties of Cedar Rapids, which provides hunting gear for Iowans. The company is also making a donation to help pay for the processing of the donated deer.He says a lot of people don’t think there are hungry people here in Iowa, but he says that’s not true. The D-N-R’s Vonk says food bank officials aren’t the only ones excited about the increase in deer licenses. Vonk says insurance companies and homeowners who’ve been overrun with deer are excited to see the effort to thin the state’s herd. For more information on the deer hunting seasons and the HUSH program, surf to www.IowaDNR.com.
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