Of all kinds of food, perishable is the least donated to the homeless, though it is most necessary for healthy meals. The Sportsmen Against Hunger, or SAH program, allows sportsmen from across the state to donate wild game through a select group of processors. Approved processors are separated into eight regions throughout the state. Last year the organization donated 73 thousand pounds of wild game to food pantries statewide. HPR had the opportunity to chat with Martha Holte, Program Coordinator for the Community Action Partnership of North Dakota.
High Plains Reader: How has the Sportsmen Against hunger program evolved over the past 10 years?
Martha Holte: In 2004, we started the Sportsmen Against Hunger program as a public education campaign. At that time, our statewide needs assessment had identified hunger as the biggest problem low-income families were facing. The main focus was to educate hunting groups and organizations about hunger in our state and encourage them to come up with their own ways of supporting the effort to end hunger, resulting in the creation of a venison donation program.
Donations have ebbed and flowed through the years with the natural shift in wildlife populations. The first year saw involvement from three of our eight regions with a total of 115 deer being donated and this past hunting season we helped distribute a grand total of 7,300 pounds of wild game to food pantries across the state. Through partnerships with North Dakota Game and Fish, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we now accept donations of all legally obtained wild game, including moose, elk, black bear, deer, Canada geese and snow geese.
HPR: I've noticed in my research that there are various Sportsmen Against Hunger programs throughout the Midwest--is it safe to assume that it is a program nationwide?
MH: We are not part of a national organization, but we identified a need and the sportsmen in our state helped find a solution to address it. Our program was started based on the need in our state and while I can’t speak for other programs, I have a feeling that as Midwesterners we naturally want to help our neighbors during tough times, whether that is helping plow our neighbor’s driveway after a blizzard, donate winter coats to help keep warm, or share excess meat after a really successful hunting season.
HPR: What steps must one take to donate meat to the program?
MH: The donation process is as simple as visiting our website, www.capnd.org/sportsmen, finding the processor nearest you, and dropping off your wild game. Once the game is dropped off, our approved processors take care of preparing the game for distribution, and then a local community action agency picks it up and distributes to the various food pantries in their region.
HPR: There is a list of processors on your website by region. How did you select them?
MH: There is a group of processors that has been involved since the inception of this program and throughout the years we have added or removed as needed. We occasionally receive recommendations from hunters that know a reputable processor or new processors may reach out to us and ask to participate. Either way, we collect all the necessary contact information, ensure they are reputable and receive regular inspections, then add them to our list.
HPR: Do they offer a discounted processing fee? How does that work?
MH: We respect each processor’s pricing as is, though there are a couple that offer discounted processing if they receive large donations, such as those that help with the elk reduction project through Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We also have hunters that will decide to pay for the processing fee in addition to donating their wild game, which is always appreciated.
HPR: Is there one region of the state that suffers more than others?
MH: We continue to see the highest need in the western side of the state, particularly in the Dickinson area. It is the only region where we don’t have a participating processor, and though they do receive donations from the surrounding regions whenever possible, we would love to start a partnership with a local processor so they have a more sustained flow of donations.
HPR: Is there one region that receives more wild game donations than others?
MH: It really varies from year to year, depending on the wildlife populations and hunter participation. Last year, the Bismarck area processed the highest amount of donations by weight, largely due to the elk reduction project. However, a good portion of those donations are distributed across the entire state.
HPR: What do you think is the most startling statistic is as far as homelessness and hunger in North Dakota?
MH: For me, one of the most surprising things about hunger in North Dakota is that roughly 90 percent of our state’s land is used for agriculture and farming, yet 1 in 12 people struggle with hunger. Compared to other states, that is actually pretty low but it is still startling when you grasp just how much of our nation’s food is grown or raised right here in North Dakota, and that we are still affected by food insecurity.
HPR: How are the donations dispersed--where do they go?
MH: We have eight community action agencies across North Dakota who pick up the processed game and distribute it to the food pantries in their own region.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Southeastern North Dakota Community Action Agency
3233 University Drive South, Fargo; 701-232-2452
Monday-Friday, 9am-3:30pm, www.capnd.org/sportsmen
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