Helping the Hungry

Native wildlife used to help those in need

Story by Corbet Deary, photography by Deary and courtesy of Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry

Story by Corbet Deary, photography by Deary and courtesy of Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry

We are blessed to live in a state that is bountiful with wildlife. In turn, hunting is a popular sport, and folks show up in our forests by the droves during dedicated hunting seasons. In fact, a lot of enthusiasts plan their vacations around deer season, and rightfully so. It’s a perfect opportunity to embark upon an excursion and fellowship with friends and family in the midst of Mother Nature.

The reasons people enjoy the sport are several fold, and hunters’ intentions also vary. Some people have a sweet tooth for venison and appreciate the opportunity to partake in the natural bounties that have been bestowed upon us. There are also hunters, on the other hand, who are not so much into eating wild meat as they are into the sport.

In turn, some folks are in search of that trophy, while others are more interested in harvesting game that is more conducive to eating. Regardless of one’s drive, neither of the reasons are wrong, and it’s each and every person’s prerogative to enjoy the sport for whatever their reason might be. Regardless of one’s reasoning, there are plenty of deer to go around. In fact, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for a hunter to harvest several deer in one season, lending to more meat than a family will devour throughout the entire year.

I’m confident all true sportsmen will agree that it is of utmost importance to not waste one of our state’s greatest natural commodities. Protein, especially meat that is untainted with growth hormones and other chemicals, is a welcomed addition to most kitchens throughout the state.

Many of us take meat for granted. But there are others who are not as fortunate. Despite our status, it’s important to remember that nobody is immune to the possibility of falling on hard times.

Let’s face it: Arkansas is not known as a wealthy state. And even though some are fortunate enough to have a nest egg, others are barely keeping their heads above the water.

In such cases, nothing more than an injury or a bout with illness is enough to send many families into an economical spiral to a point that feeding one’s family could become a struggle.

HS in the G -Hunters Feeding the Hungry- DSC_0691That in mind, a group of concerned citizens came together in 2000 with a brilliant idea. It was an opportunity for those who hunt to give back to their community.

The responsibility of the hunter was relatively simple, but the activities behind the scene were noticeably more laborious. But with persistence and dedication a plan was devised and a nonprofit referred to as Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry came to fruition.

It would take a small village to ensure the program proved a success. Along with a generous public, sponsors and agencies willing to help with distribution were essential. Fortunately, several local businesses, schools, and pantries recognized the value of the organization and jumped onboard. In turn, the program has proved a great means of supplying a healthy protein to those in need.

It all begins with the generosity of our fellow hunters. Upon harvesting game, they simply carry their whitetail deer and feral hogs to one of the local butchers participating in the program.

Once the meat has been processed, it is transported to local pantries throughout the county. In turn, these agencies distribute the meats to those who are most in need.

Since 2000, Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry and those involved have been responsible for supplementing meals with an astonishing amount of wild meat. According to Executive Director Ronnie Ritter, donations have exceeded more than 750,000 pounds of processed meat. He explained that these bounties are responsible for an excess of 3 million servings.HS on the GFo -Hunters Feeding the Hungry- IMG_5815

Ritter said that 60,000 pounds of meat was donated throughout the state in 2015. And those reading this article may be proud to know that Garland County hunters graciously donated in the neighborhood of 10,000 pounds.

Even though the program is a nonprofit, that’s no indication they have no overhead. In fact, the organization must raise about $100,000 on an annual basis to ensure they are most effective. Of course, their sponsors are an essential element of the group’s success. But we, too, can help by adding to the fund.

Those of us who hunt and fish can simply donate $1, $5 or $10 upon the purchase of our annual license. But even those who are not hunters and anglers can chip in, as well.

When asked the most rewarding aspect of his involvement with Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry, Ritter said, “Wild meat is a great protein supplement. It’s the satisfaction of knowing our native wildlife can be used to help those in need.”

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