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Hunters help the hungry
Program helps fill void created by grocery store closures, protests

11/06/14



Securing enough meat and protein for New Hampshire’s hungry has been a growing challenge for the New Hampshire Food Bank and local nonprofit food programs — more so since several Shaw’s and Stop & Shop stores closed and, more recently, Market Basket protests disrupted the amount and frequency of food donations. 

But also growing is hunters’ participation in Hunt for the Hungry, a program where local hunters donate their surplus venison and bear. Hunters can bring in meat that has been butchered and packaged by a USDA certified butcher, or bring it to Lemay & Sons Beef in Goffstown, which will process it for the Food Bank at no charge. 
Now in its seventh year, the program has grown from only a few participating hunters, said Bruce Wilson, director of operations for the New Hampshire Food Bank.
The meat gets distributed from the food bank to more than 400 soup kitchens and food pantries statewide. Last year, about 1,800 pounds of meat was donated. That provides about 1,500 meals to 1,250 people. 
“We want to encourage hunters to beat our number from last year,” Wilson said.
In recent years, securing sources of protein for the state’s in-need individuals and families hasn’t been easy. When Shaw’s and Stop & Shop left the area, there were fewer grocers donating significant quantities of protein. 
“With our grocery store partners, you had Shaw’s and Stop & Shop kind of change and leave the area — that had significant impact on us,” Wilson said. 
So although the New Hampshire Food Bank has distributed more than 8.5 million pounds of food this year — a nearly 20-percent increase over last year due to an increase in donations from Market Basket during the six-week strike this summer — when it comes to protein, the loss of area grocery stores has resulted in about 1 million fewer pounds distributed this year, compared to 2013. 
Some nonprofits are struggling with having enough food at all, let alone protein. Usually, New Horizons in Manchester, which also accepts game meat and serves 900 families per month, has fully stocked shelves going into the holiday season. This year is different. The nonprofit sends five vans to Hannaford every day, but when more people were shopping at those grocery stores during the Market Basket protests, there wasn’t any overage to give New Horizons. New Horizons also received an influx of visitors, particularly laid-off Market Basket employees who needed the donations.  
“We’ve never faced this before since I’ve been here,” said Charlie Sherman, executive director of New Horizons, “We took quite a beating with the whole Market Basket situation. We were forced to dig into our reserves and buy pallets of food. … It really cleaned out our shelves.”
The Hunt for the Hungry program is smaller at New Horizons, but any donations help, Sherman said.
“We get an OK amount [of game]; it’s nothing overwhelming,” Sherman said. “We are certainly welcoming it from any hunter who would like to bring in their prize catches and donate it as food.”
Hunt for the Hungry is a win for both hunters and families in need, said Jane Vachon of New Hampshire Fish and Game. 
“People are just really excited about getting [game], especially if they have that tradition in their family,” Vachon said. “It’s a real treat to get some venison. Other people may be trying it for the first time. It’s wholesome, organic, free range, quality food.” 
 
As seen in the November 6, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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