CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Even though this is the time of year when donations are pouring in to the New Hampshire Food Bank and local pantries, there’s still a need for certain foods, such as proteins.
One program that’s helping to fill that gap is “Hunt for the Hungry,” in which hunters can share their fall harvest with the needy through the food bank. The organization then distributes the food to more than 400 pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other organizations in the state.
Hunters can donate deer, bear, moose and other game meat.
Bruce Wilson, director of operations for the Manchester-based New Hampshire Food Bank, said grocery store chains provide a lot of beef, chicken, and other protein-filled foods, but there are times when the supply is low.
“We do become short on proteins, and we look for different sources,” he said. “This is a nice way for hunters to put to use the extra meat they typically would not freeze.”
It may not be the first choice on someone’s list, but agencies see it as a way to fill a need and adds variety to peanut butter, canned tuna, macaroni and cheese, and other proteins, he said.
Last year, 12 hunters donated a total of 1,300 pounds of game meat to the food bank, most of it deer, Wilson said. So far this year, eight hunters have donated about 1,000 pounds of food. A butcher shop in Goffstown donates its time to package up the meet.
Wilson said the program has been running for about five years and has received up to 3,000 pounds of donated meat in a given year.
Surprisingly, game birds are not as well received, and hunters are not asked to donate those. People seem to prefer store-bought turkeys than wild turkeys, for example, Wilson said.
The food gets put into the food bank’s inventory, which can be viewed online by pantries, soup kitchens and other agencies.
“The agencies will go ahead and select whether they want ground venison, whether they want venison steak, whatever they want,” Wilson said.
One agency that has accepted deer meat donations is the Plymouth Area Community Closet, a pantry that serves about 320 families and provides 5,600 to 6,000 meals a month.
“People are so hard up right now,” said pantry manager Ted Gauthier. “A couple of weeks ago, we were almost down to nothing. All of a sudden, I have a full pantry.” He said some people have been happy to have the deer meat available to them.
Gauthier said 32 new families have visited the pantry since Nov. 1. “I just registered seven today,” he said.
It’s the busiest time of year for the food bank and the pantries, but the weak economy has taken its toll, Wilson said.
“Our shelves are not stocked to capacity, so we’re always seeking additional donations to serve the 130,000 individuals — about 10 percent of the state,” he said.
“Even though we’re doing better here in the state of New Hampshire than in most parts of the United States are, the need is still up. We’re forecasting about a 15 percent increase (in demand) as compared to 2010.” Over the last two years, there’s been a 35 percent increase in demand, Wilson said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.