MICHIGAN CITY – There are a lot of deer in northern Indiana, and that means a lot of venison. There is also a lot of people struggling to feed their families, and a couple of local groups have one solution to help both problems.
The Unity Foundation recently awarded a $1,500 grant to Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry, an Indiana-based organization that encourages hunters and farmers to donate game and livestock to food banks and other hunger-relief agencies through its Meat the Need program.
"We are very excited about our 'Meat' the Need program," said Debra Treesh, executive director of Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry, "and pleased that the Foundation is continually making an investment in our community."
The grant money will be used to assist in paying processing fees for donations of large game and livestock in La Porte County.
“The grant provided by the Foundation will pay for the processing of approximately 1,150 pounds of donated large game and livestock within La Porte County, which will then be distributed to area hunger-relief agencies – providing over 4,600 meals to residents in need within our communities,” Treesh said.
Founded in 2011, Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry encourages hunters and farmers to donate, at no cost to them (farmers may write-off fair market value on taxes), by taking large game or livestock to a participating meat processor in their area, she said.
In the last seven years, Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry has helped distribute almost 1.6 million pounds of meat to Indiana food banks, providing over 4.6 million meals, according to Amber Zecca, fund development director.
“To date, we have 83 participating meat processors working within 85 counties in Indiana to aid us in our mission and to ensure residents in need are served,” Zecca said.
“Currently, we partner with local meat processors (Lange’s Meat Market, Eastside Meats), the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, and numerous other hunger-relief agencies, to provide this nutritious meat within La Porte County. This partnership resulted in almost 2,000 pounds being donated directly within this community last year – which provided approximately 8,000 meals!”
Donated deer or livestock are "processed, packaged in 1- to 2-pound packages and frozen," Treesh said. "Local hunger-relief agencies will be contacted for pick up and distribution of this nutritious protein back into the community."
The individuals and families that Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry serves are reached through food banks and other hunger-relief agencies whose services are strictly for low-income and poor populations.
"Some think that hunger only affects the homeless or poor, this is definitely not the case," Treesh said. "It could be your neighbor, a friend, a classmate of your child that is going to bed hungry every night.
"Even as the economy is improving, many hardworking Hoosiers are still living paycheck to paycheck. Indiana residents who must regularly choose between paying bills and buying groceries continue to struggle to stay afloat but become even more in debt. In Indiana, approximately 1 out of every 4 households with children report an inability to afford enough food to feed their family."
According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, 31 percent of Indiana residents who work and are food insecure don’t qualify for food-assistance programs, according to Treesh. "These residents have to turn to charitable food assistance networks
Those affected by food insecurity are also at high-risk for obesity and diet-related diseases due to the lack of quality in the foods they can afford, she said. Protein, one of the most important nutrients for brain and body development in children and young adults, is also the hardest commodity for food banks to obtain.
Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry assists in meeting these basic needs, Treesh said. The organization "gives families the ability to avoid hunger and not have to choose between bills and groceries – allowing those aging and vulnerable populations to get back on track to hunger-free, independent living."
For more information on the program, its services and to find participating meat processors, or to find out how you can help, visit hoosiersfeedingthehungry.org.