That’s what’s urgently needed to keep the Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH) program going and to greatly assist those in need of a good meal and valuable protein.
Funds in HHH are extremely low right now. In fact, the total amount of tax-deductible cash donations received are even 34 percent below last year.
Despite the fantastic response and increase in deer donations by hunters, the program continues to struggle with getting enough cash donations to cover the deer processing costs.
Teresa Lombard, Hunters Helping the Hungry Program Coordinator for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Wildlife Division, sheds even more light on the troubled scenario. She writes:
“So, this year only 375 deer can be donated statewide with current contract due to low funding for processing. This is down 1/3rd from 2018 and down ½ from 2017. I estimate that to run the program, so no hunter is turned away who wants to donate a deer, $90,000 is required annually. We were able to have unlimited deer donation in 2017, but only because some funds that were not spent in several prior years were reserved. No reserves remain.
Keep in mind that only cash donations can fund this program – no permit fees and no tax dollars can fund it.
Additional facts: only 13 processors rather than 21 are contracted this year. Instead of providing the equivalent of 111,000 meals in 2018, we expect to only be able to provide 60,000 to 70,000 meals in 2019.”
Since the first deer were accepted in 2012, HHH has distributed more than 650,000 meals. Six-hundred and fifty-thousand meals!
Please know that these meals were and are very important because protein and meat are items not donated as frequently as other foods to pantries, shelters and food banks.
So, how exactly does the Hunters Helping the Hungry program work?
HHH, enacted by the Nebraska Unicameral in 2012, is entirely funded by tax-deductible, voluntary donations made by hunters, individuals, groups and businesses. The program contracts with meat processors, who are paid the basic rough cut fee of $90, to professionally prepare and package ground venison from hunter-donated adult deer that have been harvested with valid Nebraska deer permits and are whole but field dressed. Hunters should first talk with processors but may keep antlers, head and cape and donate the rest of the deer. Charitable organizations, food banks, churches, food panties and homeless shelters then pick up and distribute the healthy, lean, protein-filled venison to feed qualifying persons and families.
The ground venison creates burgers and is added to chili, spaghetti, tacos, goulash and other main-course entrees.
Lombard says the donated deer meat is kept locally. “For example, if you donate a deer to a processor in Elwood, NE, it stays there – within that community or area – it doesn’t come to Omaha or Lincoln.”
But, what’s the answer to HHH’s financial dilemma? Consider this: In Nebraska, we have roughly 90,000 deer hunters. Just think if each of us deer hunting permit holders donated $1 to the program (yes, only $1!), it could easily be funded. Each dollar contributed provides two meals of ground venison. “People need to realize that only $1 can make a difference,” stresses Lombard.
What else could be done to help HHH?
Here are some ideas for you to ponder:
- All hunters and Game and Parks Commission permit buyers could make a tax-deductible donation for any amount when buying their permits and stamps online here.
- Any person can make their tax-deductible contribution to HHH by clicking this link.
- Not online? Tax-deductible checks for Hunters Helping the Hungry may be mailed to: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, ATTN: Hunters Helping the Hungry, P.O. Box 30370, Lincoln, NE 68503-0370.
- Stopping by your local Game and Parks district office or service center for a 2019 Public Access Atlas or Park Permit? Make a donation right at the desk to the Hunters Helping the Hungry program. You can even be anonymous if you like.
- Memorials could be established with the money given to HHH.
- Have your group join conservation organizations such as the Big Game Conservation Association, Whitetails Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Cabela’s Outdoor Fund and others in making available grant monies or sizeable tax-deductible donations to the program.
- Encourage your church, civic club or other organization to send some extra money to the program that supports many people in Nebraska.
- Tell your friends, relatives and co-workers of the current need and how they can contribute to HHH.
- Organize and schedule an event (golf tournament, sporting clay shooting competition, etc.) to benefit the HHH fund.
Teresa Lombard says the goal at Game and Parks with Hunters Helping the Hungry is steadfast: “Never turn away a hunter who wants to donate a deer, because it is wholesome food that Nebraskans in need can use.” Lombard adds: “Folks should know that this program also aids in keeping the deer population in Nebraska under control.”