The talk this fall has been all about economic recovery, but as a cold winter closes in, Jane Avery and her colleagues at Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana are collecting and giving out thousands of pounds of food each week. On recent Saturday mornings, when fresh vegetables are distributed to those in need, crowds of 1,000 or more have come to the food bank to carry away two tons of food.
Meat, though, is even harder to keep in stock than fresh vegetables. Which is why Community Harvests partnership with Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry has proved invaluable.
That group, which began as a countywide project in the tiny DeKalb town of Corunna, is now providing meat to food banks statewide, partnering with farmers, butchers and a growing army of orange-garbed volunteers.
If there were a contest for natures most perfect food, venison would surely be in the running.
Its so rich, says Avery, executive director of Community Harvest. Its high-quality protein – low in fat, low in cholesterol. Its wonderful in soups and stews, tacos, chili.
When Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry started eight years ago, it was just Debra Treesh and her husband, Doug. Unlike national distribution groups, with their organization all the money stays here – and all the food, Debra Treesh said this week.
Its had very rapid growth, Treesh said. We had five deer the first year.
By last year, the numbers had grown significantly: 830 deer and 63,000 pounds of meat to Community Harvest and other food banks.
Now the group has linked up hunters, farmers and butchers serving all 92 Indiana counties. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources and private donations provide the funding for Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry to reimburse local butchers who participate.
This is a great program. Deb Treesh has done amazing work, said the DNRs Lt. William Browne.
The end of the bowhunting season and a bonus firearms season that starts next week will give hunters a chance to finish strong and reach DNRs 2013 goal for feeding the hungry through HFTH and other non-profit groups: 3,000 deer, which should yield about 210,000 pounds of meat.
Paring Indianas deer population is a necessity. And hunting is a fact of life in Indiana. Wherever you stand on that question, remember that out-of-control deer herds spread disease, endanger crops and endanger drivers. Using the meat to boost protein on needy families tables is a big plus.
When they end up on the hood of your car, thats not the grill that they should be on, Avery said.