KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An organization working to fight hunger in Tennessee is celebrating its 25th anniversary and a donation record in 2023. The Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry program gives outdoorsmen and women a way to contribute to the fight against hunger while deer hunting.
In 2023, the program celebrated its silver anniversary and most successful season to date. Hunters for the Hungry was established in 1998 as a unique way to provide food to Tennesseans in need while helping landowners manage deer herds and providing hunters with more opportunities to hunt.
“Looking back on the program’s 25-year history, our hunters and processors have risen to the challenge every year to support their fellow Tennesseans,” said Matt Simcox, Hunters for the Hungry program manager. “The 2022–2023 season was no different except more people are invested in our mission and are committed to giving back.”
The program partners with certified wild game processors across the state to process donated deer at a discounted rate, which the Tennessee Wildlife Federation covers from donations. This allows hunters to donate their harvest free of charge. The processed venison is then given to local food banks and soup kitchens at no cost.
2023 saw an all-time high of donations with hunters giving 3,116 deer. Over the last two years, 27 new processors have joined the program bringing the total number to 73 processors across Tennessee. In 2023, a record 148,011 pounds of processed venison equaling 592,044 servings was distributed amongst hunger relief organizations in Tennessee according to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.
25 Years by the Numbers:
- Total Number of Deer Donated: 44,440
- Total Pounds of Venison Donated: 2,328,756
- Total Number of Servings of Venison: 9,315,024
“We’ve seen a steady increase of donations which is promising, but there’s always room for growth,” said Simcox. “The state of Tennessee had a total harvest of over 160,000 deer for the 2022-2023 season and only around 2% of those were donated to Hunters for the Hungry. We’re excited to get back at it next year and improve that percentage.”