Centennial High

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Hunger Challenge club members from Centennial High School in Williamson County delivered some 800 pounds of venison to Graceworks Ministries in Franklin in December, 2015. The Hunger Challenge is part of Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry program. Photo by Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry (HFTH) is reporting its best season in the donation of white-tailed deer by Tennessee hunters in the program’s 18-year history.

HFTH Manager Matt Simcox says hunters donated more than 140,000 pounds of venison to participating wild game processors in Tennessee over the 2015-16 season, resulting in some 576,000 healthy meals for Tennesseans in need, many of them children.

“We can’t thank Tennessee’s hunters and participating processors enough,” says Simcox. “Tennessee’s hunters made personal sacrifices so they could support their neighbors in crisis, even when they might need the venison for themselves.”

Simcox adds that thanks to individual gifts to the program, most of the 83 processors in the program were able to process the animals free of charge to the hunter.

“It would be impossible to accomplish this without the giving spirit of our hunting community, the wild game processors in our program, and Tennesseans who help support our program,” says Simcox. “Every year, I’m amazed at this partnership.”

Launched in 1998, HFTH connects white-tailed deer hunters with area wild-game processors who prepare venison for free or at a reduced rate to the hunter. The venison is then picked up by local food banks or soup kitchens where the highly valued protein is often served in dishes like chili or spaghetti sauce.

“In some cases, our donated venison is the only reliable source of protein these food banks get throughout the year,” Simcox says. “It’s a critical component to how they plan and prepare their meals.”

In 2013, TWF started a pilot program in Memphis – the Hunger Challenge – which engages high school students in fund-raising and hunger-awareness activities in their communities. This season saw unprecedented participation in the program, with 15 schools launching Hunger Challenge clubs and raising money for processing in their counties. Simcox says more than 200 youth participated, donating some 1,000 hours of community service. The students, from school across the state, raised more than $20,000 for processing and donated more than 130 deer.

“We’re excited about the potential of this program,” says Simcox, noting the the Hunger Challenge is the brainchild of former TWF board chair and Memphis physician Dr. Jack Gayden. “It’s been rewarding to watch these students latch onto the importance of our program and spread the word throughout their communities.”

Founded in 1946, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s mission is to lead the conservation, sound management, and wise use of Tennessee’s Great Outdoors. To learn more about TWF and Hunters for the Hungry, visit www.tnwf.org.

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