Missouri's Share the Harvest program has been around for two decades. In 2012, deer hunters across the state donated a record share of meat to food banks to help feed needy neighbors across the Show-Me State. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reveals more than 400,000 pounds of venison were donated during the hunting season. That's more than 200 tons of meat.
* The 2012 number is more than twice what was donated just four years ago. Part of the reason stems from hunter knowledge of the program. Gov. Jay Nixon has also been an ardent supporter of Share the Harvest -- this year, the state's top official donated meat from an eight-point buck to the organization to open Missouri's firearms deer hunting season.
* Hunters can donate any portion of venison to participating meat processors. In some instances, meat processing is free. After it's processed, local food banks reap the benefits of the hunt as they give venison to needy families.
* Share the Harvest was the beneficiary of much-needed funding in recent years, according to the Post-Dispatch. In 2009, the state provided $200,000 to cover the cost of meat processing. The Missouri Association of Food Banks gave the program $150,000 in 2011 as part of a larger $1 million grant. Large businesses such as Bass Pro Shops also donate to Share the Harvest.
* Share the Harvest is a partnership between the Missouri Department of Conservation, Conservation Federation of Missouri, food banks and meat processors. Avid hunter Dick Wood told the Post-Dispatch that donated venison "is the only red meat [needy people] get maybe all year."
* If a whole deer is donated during the urban deer hunting season, processing costs are picked up by the Conservation Federation of Missouri. During other seasons, a predetermined fee is set for processing meat. Depending upon the area, some donations are processed at no charge to the hunter.
* A list of participating meat processors can be found by a county search on the Department of Conservation's website . Hunters must contact the processors directly to donate the meat to Share the Harvest.
* The Conservation Federation of Missouri reveals a $60 donation pays for the processing of one animal. Individuals can donate through a "donate now" button on the organization's website.
* Hungry Missourians can benefit from Share the Harvest by signing up with participating local food banks. Venison supplies vary from one distribution center to another based upon how many deer are donated in the local area.
* Venison is unusually low in fat as a red meat. During the 2012 firearms season, nearly 205,000 animals were harvested over 11 days in mid-November.
William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.
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