'Hunter's Harvest' helps feed Mississippi communities

'Hunter's Harvest' helps feed Mississippi communities
Boxes of deer meat were donated to the Edwards Street Fellowship Center just before Christmas. Source: WDAM.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hunters in the Pine Belt can turn their hobby into a way to fight hunger across communities with the help of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation.

'Hunter's Harvest' is a program  that connects hunters, deer processors and families in need.  Hunters can choose to donate a pound or two of the meat when they are picking it up from the processor, or they can donate a dressed or quartered deer.  MWF has partnered with the Mississippi Food Network to partner processors across the state with food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and churches.

"We donate the time and equipment," said Dustin Strickland, owner of Strick's Deer Processing in Hattiesburg.  "It's really great for the hunters that want to do some deer management, but don't want to waste it. They can bring it here and we are put it to a good cause for sure."

Strick's is partnered with the Edwards Street Fellowship Center, which serves over 1,200 families a month through it's food pantry.

"Deer meat is high in protein, low in fat and meat is a very expensive thing for us to give out," said Ann McCullen, Executive Director.  "A lot of people don't donate meat to us, even if it's canned chicken or something, so we are really thrilled to get that deer meat."

McCullen said last year, the food pantry received about 2,000 pounds of donated deer meat.  She said residents who rely on the pantry are excited to see the item added to the bags they pick up for their families.

"It's not just the person handing them the bag of food, but really that a lot of people cared about them to give back to the community in that way," said McCullen.

Strickland said so far, they have been able to process about 1,500 pounds of deer meat with plans to hit the 2,500 pound mark by the end of the season.

As of August 2017, MWF reports over 60,000 pounds of meat has been contributed through Hunter's Harvest, providing over 245,000 meals of needed protein.