Program funding boost encourages hunters to increase generosity

GREENFIELD — Donations of venison to food pantries throughout the state have skyrocketed in the past year since a local lawmaker pushed to secure funds for a program to feed the hungry.

Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, wrote a bill last year that puts $150,000 annually into the Sportsman’s Benevolence Fund, a program through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to encourage hunters to give extra meat to those in need.

Hunters can donate wild game to a state-approved food processor, which is reimbursed through the fund to donate the processed meat – usually venison burgers – to food banks.

There was 66,715 pounds of deer meat donated through the program from the 2013-2014 hunting season, according to the DNR. That’s more than 83 times the amount donated in the past, when the program averaged only 800 pounds per season.

“It’s something we’re encouraged about,” Crider said. “We’re hopeful the support will continue. But I most want to thank the hunters who were so generous, because without them we really wouldn’t have anything.”

Crider, a former DNR director, set up the fund in 2008, but for six years it was only run by donations, and few hunters knew the program existed. His 2013 bill gave the program the financial backing it needed, Crider said, and he hopes donations will continue to rise.

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