NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Two Bethel College students are trying to turn white-tailed deer – a common sight and sometime road hazard in Kansas in the fall – into a way to help combat hunger.
Jamie Hopp and Elizabeth Terry, both from Hutchinson, are friends and senior social work majors at Bethel. This semester, they took the Intervention in Human Systems, a required class for the major.
Their professor, Hamilton Williams, challenged his students to find out what the needs in Newton and Harvey County were and to come up with some community intervention projects – preferably something “not typical,” he said.
Class discussion focused on hunger, especially given the publicity for increased need this year for donations to Harvest of Love, the community food pantry run by the Salvation Army, and other local food bank programs.
Neither Hopp nor Terry or their families hunt, but as the class talked about different ways to help feed the hungry, “somebody mentioned donating meat from hunters or farmers,” Terry recalls. “I had heard something from a friend whose husband is an avid hunter about a program that did that.”
So Terry began researching and she found Kansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry, which Tony DeRossett, a mail carrier from Tonganoxie, started 10 years ago.
“We really wanted to get involved,” Hopp says. “We’ve been working at it about two months now and we’ve gotten really close to Tony. We have been able to do some things [to help him], like starting a Facebook page.”
In its first year, KSHFH got donated meat from 180 deer. Now it’s about 1,100 – with one deer providing meat for 200 meals. But until this fall, there was no KSHFH-affiliated meat locker in Harvey County.
Participating lockers discount processing and storage costs for donated deer or elk meat that is delivered field dressed. KSHFH sends the lockers special plastic bags that hold a pound of ground meat and are marked “Not for Sale.” It’s illegal to sell venison or elk meat in Kansas unless it comes from a deer or elk farm.
“Tony has a good system in place,” says Terry. “Working with the State of Kansas, he’s divided the state into 10 regions. Harvey County is one of 11 counties in our region.”
Their work on the project has resulted in the addition of a locker in Harvey County, Mark’s Meat in Halstead.
Besides the Facebook page, they developed and printed an insert for the standard KSHFH brochure that includes the names, addresses and phone numbers of the Harvey County location and the two in Reno County (Yoder Meats in Yoder and Jackson’s Meat in Hutchinson), plus Hopp’s and Terry’s e-mail contact information.
There is already a voluntary $2 donation on deer license fees that helps support KSHFH, Hopp says. “We have taken the brochures to Wal-Mart, gun shops and any place that sells deer licenses.”
There have been informal contacts, too. Williams was standing in line for Black Friday shopping and met a bow hunter, with whom he shared information, which then got passed on to friend of the first man, also a hunter.
“I was working on updating the Facebook page recently,” Hopp says, “and a woman stopped and said, ‘What are you doing – is that homework?’ So I was able to share about the program with her.”
They also researched places that could take and store meat and found out that Agape Resource Center, the Salvation Army food pantry, Our Lady of Guadalupe church’s food pantry and the Manna Project at Hillcrest Community Church all have freezer space.
“We’ve been waiting patiently for some meat to distribute,” says Hopp. “Elizabeth called all the people [in the area] who collect donated meat – McPherson, Hutchinson, Derby. We just found out that Krehbiel Meats in McPherson has 500 pounds."
The two students and Williams went to McPherson Dec. 5 and got about 100 pounds of ground venison, which they then delivered to the four food pantries.
“We can pull meat from anywhere in our region,” Terry says, “but we’ll try to stay in Harvey County [once the program is better established].
“Some of the places [in Newton] aren’t sure how people will feel about venison,” she adds, “but we’re going to give each of them about 25 pounds and see how it goes.”
In addition to encouraging hunters to donate meat, Hopp and Terry are working on ways to raise money for KSHFH. It costs about $60 to process, store and transport the meat of one deer. Most of the delivery happens through volunteers – for Harvey County, those volunteers at this point are other members of the Intervention in Human Systems class.
“We’re hoping we can do a fundraiser, like a chili cook-off or a chili feed,” says Terry. “It’s not just finding hunters but also getting financial donations to help with costs.
“This is a great program,” she continues, “that really does a lot toward feeding the hungry and helping people in the community who are struggling.”
For more information about Kansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry, to find a list of participating lockers or to make a financial contribution, go to www.kshfh.org or look for Kansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry on Facebook. To drop off a donated deer in Harvey or Reno County, call LaVeta Miller at Central Prairie Resource Conservation and Development, 620-792-6224, or one of the participating lockers – Jackson’s Meat (620-662-4465), Mark’s Meat (316-835-2255) or Yoder Meats (620-465-3807).