According to FeedingAmerica.org, one in five North Carolinians struggles with hunger.
To help combat hunger in the state, the Farmers and Communities Manage Deer program enables hunters to efficiently utilize legally harvested whitetail deer for use as food.
Deer are an abundant natural resource whose numbers have increased to more than 1 million across North Carolina, affecting everything from agriculture to insurance rates to homeowners' flower beds.
According to a news release from the N.C. Wildlife Federation, the program is a sponsored project of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and a collaborative effort between the N.C. Wildlife Federation, N.C. Hunters for the Hungry, hunters, farmers and local community groups.
Close to home, the Pollocksville Volunteer Fire Department Annual Big Game Hunt provides participants an opportunity to donate deer harvested during the two-day event.
Riverside Meats, Inc. in Trenton handles the processing of the deer during the annual hunt and throughout deer season.
"The Hunters for the Hungry program gives someone a chance to donate a whole deer or half a deer," Riverside Meats owner Robert Small said. "Once they donate it, they fill out the right forms and we ask that they at least field dress them and we process it into burger."
Meat processed at Riverside helps feed people in Jones, Lenoir, Craven, Pamlico and Onslow counties.
During the Big Game Hunt, 33 deer were donated to the program, providing almost 1,300 pounds of deer burger. The processed meat is donated to local food pantries, shelters and religious organizations for distribution.
Small has been participating in the program since the early 1990s.
"If you give a person, whether they're young or old, something they can eat, it goes a long ways," Small said. "When this first started, I said, 'OK, I'll try it,' but by the second year, when I saw what it was doing for other people, to help them, it made an impact and made me want to keep going."
One deer can provide 160 servings of protein, and hunting has been found to be the most cost effective method of controlling and maintaining a stable deer population in the state.
"Thank goodness we've got this, especially for the elderly community," Small said. "This may make it possible for people to not have to choose between buying their medicine or buying groceries. I hope people realize how much this affects everybody to the good."
Small will be accepting deer donations through the end of the year. For more information about donating a deer, call Riverside at 252-448-4047.
For the month of December, Beaufort County's Old Ford Ruritan Club is hosting a deer collection drive in which the hunter who donates the most deer — does or bucks — to the program, receives a $250 grand prize. For more information, call Acre Station Meat Farm at 252-927-3489.
Information from: The Sun Journal, http://www.newbernsunjournal.com