CHENANGO COUNTY – More than 1,140 pounds of ground venison was distributed through local food pantries last year, according to Roots and Wings Director Melinda Mandeville.
Every ounce of it was donated by hunters who chose to donate deer they killed during hunting season through the Venison Donation Program, coordinated locally through the Resource Conservation & Development office in Norwich.
While Chenango is one of 12 counties included in the Central New York region’s Venison Donation Coalition, it functions differently.
“Our venison doesn’t go from here to the state food bank for distribution,” explained Chenango County Farm Bureau President Bradd Vickers, whose organization fully supports the program. “It is processed locally and then picked up by Roots and Wings for distribution here in the county.”
According to RC&D staffer Kim Totten, the program, now in its tenth year, has evolved since its inception. When it began, hunters were encouraged to donate venison, but were required to pay for processing the meat. Now, through a combination of private donations and state matching funds, the regional coalition pays for the cost to process the venison.