Hunters for the Hungry Combines Sport with Giving
Hunters for the Hungry donates venison to food banks across South Carolina to feed hungry people.
Deer hunting season begins in stages from August to October, lasting until Jan. 1. But as hunters roam South Carolina’s forests and fields in search of deer, some will be after more than trophies. They’ll also be setting out to feed hungry people in the Palmetto State. They’re participants in the South Carolina Hunters for the Hungry program. Board member Tim Sorrells, retired football coach at Furman University, talked about the beginnings of the group.
“It was started in 2004 by a bunch of guys that just had a hunt club in Spartanburg County. And they were harvesting as many deer as they could every year, and they were discovering that they didn’t need it all for themselves… and it just continued to grow from there.”
That decision to share what they had led to the organization of Hunters for the Hungry, which has comparable groups in other states but is not affiliated with them.
Hunters for the Hungry donates venison to food banks and pantries throughout the state. Greer Relief and Resources Agency Executive Director Caroline Robertson said Hunters for the Hungry is important to her mission. “They feed our neighbors. They bring meat in the form of venison - steak, ground beef, and sausage into our food pantry for us to distribute it to our neighbors in need who are seeking services from us for hunger.”
Sorrells explained the process using his experience as an example. “Say I killed seven deer last year. And I kept one for myself, I gave one to my son and I donated five. So when I killed a deer I said ‘I’m gonna donate this one.’ I took it to Shane Candler at Candler’s Processing in the lower part of the county here in Greenville. I dropped the deer off, I said ‘I’m donating this to Hunters for the Hungry.’… Then I will call Piedmont Emergency Relief Center and say ‘there are deer that are ready to go for your agency at Shane’s.’ And she just goes and picks ‘em up and she uses ‘em. Doesn’t cost her a dime.”
Some hunters pay for processing the deer as part of their donation, and Candler gives them a discount for that service. Others contribute just the deer. For those instances, Hunters for the Hungry, a 501c (3) charitable organization, solicits financial gifts to cover the cost of processing the meat. “I think it’s awesome,” Candler said of the hunters’ efforts to help others. “I think it’s pretty dang good that we’ve got a service like this now going on that helps people that need food and stuff.”
There are about 150 deer processors in the state, said Sorrells, and around 25 work with Hunters for the Hungry, which is seeking even more to better cover South Carolina. Sorrells estimates the group has provided about 1.5 million meals to needy families since 2004. Over the past three years, it has delivered more than 15,000 pounds of venison to 14 agencies in the Greenville area alone, but statewide provides about 33,000 pounds per year to food relief groups.
Robertson is very grateful to the organization for helping her group help people. “Venison is a very, very rich and nutritious – and free – source of meat, of protein that is here. And without that source, there are so many of our neighbors that would have gone without...without that source there would be so many people that would not have the opportunity to have meat in their homes, and be able to feed their families.”
For its efforts, Hunters for the Hungry has attracted the support of such luminaries as Gov. Henry McMaster and Clemson head football coach Dabo Sweeney.
Sorrells said he gets great satisfaction from helping others through the program, and wants to see it expand. “When you walk into an agency and introduce yourself and say ‘hey, I would love to bring you 800 pounds of venison to put in your freezers,’ they look at you like ‘are you for real? You’re serious?’ Our goal is certainly to try to continue to move and create chapters all throughout the state of South Carolina.”
Toward that goal, Sorrells said if every hunter in South Carolina would donate just one deer per year, a lot more hungry families could be fed.
Learn more at schuntersforthehungry.com