There is a way for Hoosiers who love the outdoors to help those who don’t have enough to eat during the holidays.

Hunters often spend sunrise to sunset stalking deer for sport and for food, and many end up with more than they need.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Sportsmen’s Benevolence Fund pays for deer to be processed into venison burgers, and those are then donated to local food banks.

Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, says the people who get the donated meat are very thankful.

“A lot of Hoosiers are quite familiar with venison,” she points out. “A lot of us grew up having it for Thanksgiving or for Christmas, and so there are a lot of Hoosiers around the state who are in need of food assistance who would be really excited about the thought of having some venison for the holidays.”

In 2015, hunters donated more than 1,300 deer to food banks, providing thousands of Hoosiers with food.

Several organizations that have teamed up with Dubois County Sportsmens Club and Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry have a network of participating butcher shops throughout Indiana, and they coordinate with food banks serving every county to pick up and deliver venison.

Weikert Bryant says the venison is a good source of lean protein that many families otherwise may not be able to afford.

“And it’s something that we get donated through the food banks as far as protein, but it doesn’t always come, and it’s certainly the most expensive thing for our clients to find and pay for themselves,” she points out.

Between 2013 and 2015, Indiana hunters provided food to almost 220,000 Hoosiers.

To participate, hunters must take the deer to a participating butcher. A full list is available on the DNR’s website.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service – IN