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Hunters step up to feed families as pandemic increases need for food banks

COVID-19 has taken a major bite out of the economy and budgets for families so Kentucky Hunters for the Hungry is filling the need.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — You don't have to look hard to see that our area has more than an abundance of deer. In a year when more people than ever are relying on food banks to get by hunters are stepping up to fill a need.

Kentucky Hunters for the Hungry is looking to fill more donations than ever before as food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens see more requests due to the pandemic.

“What you find is that people are finding ways to source their own meals and we're very proud that hunters are being successful enough this year to be able to source own protein and still donate some to those in need," said Col. Michael Abell. Abell, a retired US Army Colonel now makes it his mission to serve on the Board of Directors for Kentucky Hunters for the Hungry.

More than 3,000 Kentuckians hit a deer with their car each year. Hunting helps to lessen those numbers by keeping the population in check. It's also designed to keep the ecosystem in balance. This year hunters are doing more than ever to feed the hungry.

They drop off deer at select processors who prepare the meat for organizations like the Healing Place in Louisville.

“Pasta is cheap, beans are cheap, but protein is not," explained Healing Place Operations Manager, Justin Schwarz. “The more meat we have, the better it is for our clients. It just makes the meal a little bit thicker, a stick-to-your-ribs type of meal."

While the Healing Place gets most of their meat elsewhere, venison is making a difference here and at food banks. Last year, Hunters for the Hungry donations provided 343,000 meals across the Commonwealth.

More than 2,100 deer were donated in 2019. The organization hopes to increase that to 2,400 in 2020.

Processors are pacing themselves as many already feel the impacts of increased business due to the pandemic.

“It's a good way of giving back to the community," Kingsley Meat and Catering owner, Jeff Fischer, told us. “There's a lot of hungry people out there.”

But organizers say, this last week of modern gun deer hunting season will likely be as busy as ever and they're hoping for even more donations due to a greater need.

“If you've never done it before and you've got the time because you're working from home and you're a hunter or you’re a new hunter and you want to learn how to do it, you can find all of that on our website. But, if you're an experienced hunter and you've already had the blessing of harvesting an animal for your family please consider trying to get another animal for another family just like yours that could use those healthy ethically responsibly sourced meals of venison," Abell said.

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