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Hunters for the Hungry program

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Hunters urged to donate meat to food pantries

BANGOR - Maine hunters have the opportunity to give to the hungry this year by donating part or all of their catch to the state's food pantries and soup kitchens as part of the Hunters for the Hungry program. 

"We get a lot of deer and moose meat. Bear is a distant third," said Jason Hall, director of the emergency food assistance program.  

The Hunters for the Hungry program which was started back in 1996 is part of the Department of Agriculture's Emergency Food Assistance Program. It has grown each and every year mostly due to word of mouth.

"We're one of the best kept secrets in Maine and we want to make sure we're using every avenue to help people in the state," said Hall.

And hunters who are willing to donate to the cause can do so at no cost.

"We pay all processing costs and try and match the animal to a soup kitchen or pantry in that county," explained Hall. "We have a great relationship with the wardens and troopers in different parts of the state, and when there is an animal that is poached, we get that as well."

The program even accepts road kill as long as there is something salvageable on the animal and the meat is not damaged. One thing the program cannot accept though is poultry.

"We get all kinds of phone calls saying we have rooster chickens, but there's not a lot of poultry processors in Maine," said Hall. "We stay clear of that until a business opens up that can process poultry at an adequate cost."

The program is looking to expand this season with its first-ever ice fishing derby. 

"You have to have a certain type of training to process fish," said Hall. "In January we'll have an ice fishing derby in Cumberland County where excess fish will be processed and sent to soup kitchens in that county. It'll be a first for the Hunters for the Hungry program."

For more information or to get involved with the Hunters for the Hungry program, call 1-888-4DEERME or look them up on Facebook. 

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