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Hunters Feeding the Hungry contributes to fight against hunger

By Marla Cantrell

Hunters display their take of snow geese during a recent winter hunt in Stuttgart benefiting Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry.

Hunters display their take of snow geese during a recent winter hunt in Stuttgart benefiting Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry.

 

Part of the solution to solving the hunger problem in Arkansas could rest in the hands of Arkansas’s deer hunters. If that sounds like a stretch, you probably haven’t heard about Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry (AHFH), a charity started in 2000 by Bob Barringer.

His idea was simple. He’d given venison away himself to a friend whose son used to bring her deer meat each hunting season. When her son passed away, Barringer took over and after seeing how much it helped, he thought about other Arkansans whose budget were stretched to the limit. 

According to Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, more than 560,000 of the state’s residents, 19.2 percent, are food insecure. An average deer can provide 120 to 150 quarter-pound servings of meat. 

Barringer first contacted Steve “Wildman” Wilson from the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission, which now partners with the charity. “He knew people across Arkansas on a first-name basis,” Barringer said. “So, he was a great help. We kicked off the event at the Big Buck Classic, and founders Tommy and Catherine Murchison helped tremendously. 

“I didn’t know how I was going to make this work. I’d just told the hunters we met at the Big Buck Classic that we’d pay the meat processors if [the hunters] donated the deer, even though I didn’t know where I was going to get the money.”

Today, there are approximately 70 USDA-inspected processors across the state who participate in the program. A few of the processors don’t take any payment for their work and the rest are paid by AHFH. Hunters bring their field-dressed or ice-chest-quartered deer and fill out a short donation form. If they want to donate only a pound or two, that’s an available option. The processor then grinds the donated meat, packages it and stores it until a nearby food bank or other food charity comes to collect it. 

Beyond that, AHFH also provides packaged deer jerky to 14 schools for their backpack programs, an idea that originated with AHFH’s executive director, Ronnie Ritter.

“A few years ago, I noticed snack sticks started to appear in stores,” Ritter said. “I thought, why couldn’t we produce snack sticks made from deer? Many schools across the state have weekend backpack programs where shelf-stable products are placed in children’s backpacks for the weekend. Schools serve breakfast and lunch, but when they go home for the weekend, sometimes they have nothing.”

To date, the charity has provided 5 million servings of venison; just last year AHFH collected more than 75,000 pounds, which translates to 300,000 servings. Barringer said he’s received thank-you notes from many, especially during an ice storm a few years ago that caused massive power outages and food spoilage in home refrigerators and freezers. “We were told we’d saved lives,” he said.  

Ways to Donate:

You can donate money when you buy your Arkansas hunting and fishing licenses, or on the AHFH website, arkansashunters.org. That’s also where hunters can get information on donating venison and see the list of meat processors working with AHFH.