Nearly 10,000 people in Pike County, Illinois, alone struggle to put food on their plates each night.
That’s according to county officials, which is why they’re working with deer hunters to meet those needs.
Hundreds of pounds of deer meat are going through the grinders at Smith Taxidermy. Owner Todd Smith said it’s a crazy busy couple of months for them.
“We have caped, or de-boned or both, 125 deer in the past five days, so it’s a bunch,” Smith said.
However, Smith said the long nights and early mornings are worth it, as some of that deer meet goes towards fighting hunger around Pike County.
“Feed the Hungry is a great program,” Smith said. “Basically we grind the whole deer, it goes to the food pantry and then it goes to feed the hungry.”
It’s a need that program organizers said impacts about 1,500 people a month during four months of deer season.
“We realized that we had a resource that could help with a need we were seeing in our county and that was that there was no protein products being distributed in our local food pantries,” Brenda Middendorf with Access Illinois Outdoors said.
Middendorf said people all ages are struggling to find protein.
“We have seniors who have to make a choice of whether or not to buy meat or buy their medicine and then we have young families, who both are working, maybe not eligible for government assistance and can’t afford to feed their children,” Middendorf said.
That’s why she partners with Smith. He processes the deer meat that people don’t want to keep and Access Illinois Outdoors covers the cost. The meat is then shipped off to local food pantries.
The partnership aims to donate 10,000 pounds of meat every season.
“We package it in one pound packages and it all goes to the food pantry,” Smith said.
“They love having the meat and look forward to deer season,” Middendorf said. “Nobody turns down our meat.”
Smith said if you are interested in donating deer to the program, you can just pop in here and fill out some quick paperwork.
Middendorf said Access Illinois Outdoors helps to give deer meat to local food pantries in Brown, Pike, Schuyler and Scott counties.
She said since they run on individual donations and grants, the organization is always looking for donations. You can donate through the website, here.