By TRAVIS HANDY
Many people think of hunting as a sport or hobby, with many hunters using the venison they harvest from the mountains of Pulaski County and surrounding areas to supplement their family’s food supply. Hunters also have an opportunity to give to a worthy cause and impact hungry families in our local area. Hunters for the Hungry was founded in 1991 to provide donated venison to people in need by encouraging hunters to donate their deer to participating meat processors throughout Virginia. Processors then pass on the usable meat to food pantries, soup kitchens and other nutrition assistance programs. The program is hoping to boost the number of donations this year. The charity was founded by David Horne and Laura Newell-Furniss, who worked for a produce salvage program that provided goods to food banks, and while the food banks were thankful for the support, they expressed a need for meat. Horne, a hunter himself, recognized an opportunity to fill that need with the support of hunters all over the state. “David knew hunters could harvest more deer on the game tags they get than they could use for their families,” said Newell-Furniss. Out of that idea, Hunters for the Hungry was born. Since being founded, Hunters for the Hungry has produced over 19 million four-ounce servings of venison, creating a huge impact throughout Virginia. Without the support of Hunters for the Hungry, many food assistance programs would be forced to supplement their meat demands by purchasing it from retailers. Through this program, meat processors accept donations of deer and process the meat, which is packaged and prepared for distribution. After a call from headquarters, local food pantries and soup kitchens go out to processors, like Harvey’s Meat Processing on Rt. 114 to receive the venison donated by area hunters. Harvey Hill, owner of Harvey’s Meat Processing, said his business has been participating with the program for the last six years and has seen thousands of donations during that time. So far this hunting season, Hill has seen donations from 150 to 200 hunters and has disbursed around 3,600 pounds to the cause. While some of the processors ask hunters to donate pre-skinned deer, some processors like Harvey’s will skin deer being donated to the charity. Hill noted that one of his repeat donors is a handicapped man who gives at least five deer per season, which Hill guts, skins and processes for little or no charge. “I lose a little bit, but I’ve always told myself that my kids are well off,” said Hill. “They want for a lot of things, but they don’t need. So if (the meat) gets into one kid’s mouth, it’s worth anything I would lose.” There is always a need for support for Hunters for the Hungry, and Newell-Furniss would like to encourage more hunters to take part. “First of all, I would thank them and say ‘Wow! Look at what you have done over the last 20 years. Nearly 20 million servings of food have been contributed because of your generosity,’” said Newell-Furniss. “This year donations are down and we just ask hunters to consider taking another deer and donating it to the program so that people that don’t have the food they need will have a good meal.” There are several processors in neighboring counties which participate with Hunters for the Hungry. Processors in Montgomery County are Hunter’s Burden in Elliston, Harvey’s Meat Processing in Radford and Taylor’s Meat Processing in Christiansburg. The processor in Giles County is Smith Valley Meats, in Rich Creek. Hilly Haven Market in Barren Springs is a Wythe County participant. Donations may be made at Blue Ridge Packing of Hillsville in Carroll County, and in Floyd County at Willis Village Mart.