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Huters for the Hungry succeeding

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By Chris Cannon

ccannon@lafollettepress.com

One in six Tennesseans go to bed hungry every night. However, local and state hunters are looking to change those odds.

Hunters for the Hungry, a program started 15 years ago, has recently found its way to Campbell County. The Campbell Outdoor Recreation Association (CORA) has been working diligently with this program in order to feed the county’s hungry families.

“It was the first year for our program,” CORA president Terry Lewis said. “East Tennessee doesn’t typically have a large deer population for this program. I feel like we pretty much achieved our lofty goal for the first year.”

That lofty goal set the bar high for the 2012-13 hunting season as well. Last year, hunters were able to provide over 5,000 meals for people of Campbell County through $1,000 donated by CORA.

This year, as CORA is hoping to double its chances.

“When it was all said and done, one pound of deer will equal four meals,” CORA Treasurer Bill Stanley said. “Through Hunters for the Hungry, we ended up providing 5,000 meals on$1,000. This year, we’ve committed to $2,000 in hopes of 10,000 meals.”

The Hunters for the Hungry have a simple mission: to promote generosity. Their mission statement says, “Hunters for the Hungry motivates the generosity of Tennesseans to donate, process, and distribute venison to people in need.”

So far, it’s been proving Tennesseans have generosity.

In the program’s 15th year, it now stands as providing 3,226,824 meals according to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry Coordinator Matt Simcox.

With last year’s 5,000 meals, it ranks at the top of the average according to Simcox.

“It’ll average anywhere between three to 5,000 meals per $1,000,” Simcox said. “Obviously, some deer are bigger and some are smaller. We pay the processor 40 dollars either way. If that deer generates 50 pounds of meat, you get 200 meals out of that 40 dollars.”

The amount of meat Tennessee has provided has seen gains of 10 percent or more over the past four years. Last year’s totals grew 13 percent, going from 111,223 pounds during the 2010-2011 hunting season to 125,679 pounds during 2011-2012 according to the annual report by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation (TWF).

Starting out with 7,000 pounds in 1999, the program has grown nearly 18 times its original amount, resulting in 806,706 pounds of meat provided for the hungry in 13 years.

For Campbell County, the process is easy. Hunters can drop off meat at Valley Meats located at 364 Knoxville Hollow Road near Glade Springs Road. The money donated by CORA to the TWF will go to pay for the processing of the deer.

While John Muse of Valley Meats says no deer have been turned into the program as of yet, mostly due to the amount of leaves on the ground, he’s been promised some venison for the program.

“I’m expecting at least 30 to 40 deer this year,” he said.

For most hunters, the amount of meat they get puts and end to their hunting season. This program allows the hunters to still do what they are passionate about, while helping a worthy cause.

“Guys can go out and hunt all they want to, while killing the deer that you’re allowed in legal limit,” Lewis said. “Those deer that you might not want to process and keep for yourself, you can give to Hunters for the Hungry. It’s a great way to continue to participate in your special interest of hunting, while feeding the unfortunate.”

According to Stanley, a hunter may kill a deer that will weigh 40 pounds after processing. However, a family may plan on only eating 30 pounds. The other 10 pounds could be given as a donation to Hunters for the Hungry as well.

Open Arms Ministry picks up the meat from Valley Meats and distributes it to local families in need. According to Stanley, the program couldn’t exist without their efforts.

“We could not do this if it wasn’t for Open Arms Ministry,” he said. “They are the key part with the distribution aspect of it. They have the food bank that has distribution set up in order to get it where it needs to go. That’s the first thing we looked for, was someone with the ability to do that.”

Venison isn’t the only donation the program accepts. They also offer pound or pack donations, which could consist of beef or pork processed at Valley Meats.

Hunters can also donate money by coming to the CORA meetings held at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month in the Campbell County Courthouse.

CORA is also looking to partner with local churches and civic organizations to help donate funds.

“I’m just excited that our first year was a huge success with 5,000 meals,” Lewis said. “I look forward to doubling down on that effort and feeding of 10,000 in Campbell County.”