The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Food Bank of Iowa are celebrating the 10th anniversary of a program that’s helped feed thousands of needy families.

Jim Coffey of Chariton is coordinator of the Help Us Stop Hunger (HUSH) program. “Hunters actually came to (the DNR) and asked for a way to donate some deer to help some families in their local communities and the HUSH program was developed from that…as well as the department’s need to reduce the deer herd,” Coffey said. Over 90 lockers across the state also participate in the program and process the deer meat for food banks.

The program has definitely been a successful one, according to Coffey. “In the last couple years we’re actually seeing a decrease in the number of deer donated. That’s not an indication that people are less likely to donate, it’s an indication that the program is working,” Coffey said. “The deer herd has been reduced almost in half in the last five years.”

During the 2011-2012 hunting season, more than 6,000 deer were donated to Iowa’s HUSH program. “Most states have some type of a program in place, but Iowa’s is by far the most successful,” Coffey said. “We get calls every year from those other states asking how they can emulate what we’re doing and have the same success that we have.”

Over the past decade, HUSH lockers have processed 56,000 donated deer providing more than 11 million meals.

by Pat Powers, KQWC and Pat Curtis, Radio Iowa