As the regular rifle deer season approaches, with its first-ever Saturday opener, area deer hunters have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the hungry via the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program, according to Randy Ferguson, area coordinator for Crawford and Mercer counties.

Since 1991, Hunters Sharing the Harvest has channeled hunters’ donations of venison to local food banks, soup kitchens and needy families via an integrated network of local contacts and participating meat processors. These donations have provided hundreds of thousands of meals to needy Pennsylvanians.

“In 2018 HSH coordinated the delivery of 149,137 pounds of venison from 4,093 donated deer that helped to feed 818,600 meals to those in need across the state,” Ferguson said. “This record amount was reached because people got involved and helped.”

Locally, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania receives donated venison and coordinates its distribution throughout Crawford County. Community Food Warehouse in Farrell handles distribution to Mercer County charitable organizations.

Hunters need only to visit a participating processor to donate their deer and complete a donation form. There is no cost to the hunter.

Hilltop Processing, 4908 Fisher Road, near Conneautville, is currently the only processor in Crawford County. In Mercer County, Liszka Meats, 727 Mercer Road, near Greenville, and Minor Acres Packing, 641 Kilgore Road, Jackson Center, are the two participating processors.

Ferguson encourages hunters to consider donating their second or third deer of the season but also to consider partial donations from any deer harvested. Donating part of a deer is a bit more involved, as the hunter must pay the full processing cost and ask the processor to hold back a specified amount for HSH.

Interested individuals — including non-hunters who want to support the organization — can contribute funds via the "Give a Buck to the Pot" campaign as well, Ferguson said. A donation of $25 can provide as many as 100 meals through food pantries and/or soup kitchens.

HSH is a 501c(3) charitable organization, and contributions are tax deductible. Those interested in supporting the program monetarily should mail a check, payable to Hunters Sharing the Harvest, 6780 Hickory Lane, Harrisburg, PA 17112.

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