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DNR deer meat donation program benefits many families in local area

Lloyd Schultz a volunteer with The Bridge Community Pantry in Perham said both ground and sausage donated venison meat is very popular. (Kim Brasel / FOCUS).

Getting that trophy buck and stocking their own freezers with meat aren't the only reasons for hunters to be out in the predawn hours, helping friends and neighbors get enough to eat this winter is another reason some are on the hunt.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, has a program that allows Minnesota deer hunters to donate deer meat to food shelves and feeding programs.

Hunters must have their deer processed at a Minnesota Department of Agriculture-registered meat processing plant that has agreed to participate in the program.

Al Ousley of Al's Butcher Blend on Fort Thunder Road said his shop has been a part of the program for about 8-10 years now.

"Last year I had about 21 people donate their deer meat, which translated to between 600 and 900 pounds of meat for the food shelf," he said. "I think a lot of them donate it to do something nice for others."

John Leikness, executive director of The Bridge Community Pantry in Perham said the meat donated saves the food shelf about $2,000.

"The donation allows us to spend that money on other needs," he said. "It's a great program because it provides a high quality protein for the families we serve."

He said the number of families it helps varies since how much a family receives is based on several factors, but on average the donated meat helps roughly 300 families.

Families benefit throughout hunting season; Ousley said hunters start bringing deer in with archery season and continue through muzzleloading. During rifle season the meat is sent to the Twin Cities to be x-rayed for lead; if there are any fragments it's discarded. Once it's approved, it comes back and goes to the food shelf.

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