By Molly Weeks Crumbley
Food insecurity is a serious problem for many members of the Chesapeake Bay community. While the area’s food banks work tirelessly to provide for those in need, they have many obstacles to overcome, among them the rising cost of meat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help alleviate this problem, Anne Arundel County is currently in its second year of Hunt Down Hunger, a creative initiative formed “to help provide a greater diversity of products available to those in need of food assistance.” Hunt Down Hunger is a partnership between the Anne Arundel County Food Bank and the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, which encourages hunters to help curb the deer overpopulation and to lend a hand to local families in need by donating deer to the food banks.
Deer meat—venison—is a high protein food source that can be prepared many ways. According to Food Bank Marketing & Communications Manager Melanie Kincaid, last year’s Hunt Down Hunger program was able to successfully increase the supply of meat available to families in need thanks to the effort of 151 hunters.
“In total, 255 deer were harvested and 5,727 pounds of venison meat were donated to the Anne Arundel County Food Bank last year,” said Kincaid.
Food Bank CEO Leah Paley confirms this, adding that their partner pantries “continue to experience a high demand for food assistance; they served 90 percent more Anne Arundel County residents between July-October 2021 versus two years ago (pre-pandemic) during the same period.”
In the 2021 fiscal year, the food bank estimates that they were able to provide 5.8 million pounds of food to their member agencies, feeding about 62,500 county residents each month.
Hunt Down Hunger is able to take donations until the close of the initiative on Feb. 3, and hunters can take their deer directly to Harwood Butcher (4531 S. Pollinghouse Road, Harwood) or Hitchcock Taxidermy (8261 New Cut Road, Severn). AAEDC is paying all processing fees, and they remind participants to follow all proper hunting laws and regulations.
“If you are not a hunter, there are many ways to help fight hunger in Anne Arundel County by supporting the Anne Arundel County Food Bank,” adds Kincaid.
Outside of Anne Arundel County, hunters are able to make similar deer donations through the national Farmers & Hunters Feeding the Hungry initiative, which is endorsed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (fhfh.org).
For more on Hunt Down Hunger: aafoodbank.org and aaedc.org