A downstate organization is connecting hunters with food pantries to donate more than 10,000 pounds of meat for Illinois residents in need.
Access Illinois Outdoors matches individuals looking to hunt and enjoy other activities with owners of 250 acres of private land enrolled in its program. The group created Access Food, a program that encourages deer hunters to donate extra meat by paying the meat processing fee and coordinating the distribution of the meat to food banks.
Brenda Middendorf with Access Illinois Outdoors said that this program seemed like a natural extension of the services it already provides.
“We have a lot of non-residents who are hunting who would be willing to donate the deer if they weren’t burdened with the processing cost and trying to distribute the meat,” Middendorf said.
The meat donation program has been a hit both with the hunters and the food pantries.
“It’s the only meat product the food pantries receive, so they’re very excited about it,” Middendorf said.
Access Food supplies several food pantries throughout Pike, Brown, Schuyler and Scott counties. The program’s goal is to donate a minimum of 10,000 pounds of meat for Pike County each year, which it met this year again.
Middendorf said nearly 13,000 people in Pike County benefit from the program.
Feed America ranks Pike County’s lack of access to food at 11.8 percent, which is slightly under the national average of 15.4 percent. Pike County is also listed on the poverty watch list, which indicates the county is facing potential declining conditions in several areas, such as graduation, income, housing and employment.
Middendorf emphasized the need for protein for residents facing budget constraints and hunger.
“There’s just not enough funds there to cover meat in the grocery budget, and that’s often the first thing to go because it is the most expensive,” Middendorf said.
Grants and private donations cover the processing fees, allowing Access Food to help residents since 2010.
–Illinois News Network