The area is seeing more first-time visitors to food banks during the economic fallout from the pandemic, so an annual food drive involving wild-game hunters aims to expand its reach. For nearly 20 years, Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources has spearheaded a program each fall in which meat from several thousand deer is donated to food banks across the state. This year, a new twist connects hunters directly with the families who’ll receive the donated venison.
Joe Wilkinson, president of the Iowa Wildlife Federation, said it adds a personal touch to the process and gives recipients the chance to request what they need.
The Iowa Wildlife Federation joined the effort this year to recruit more hunters to take part in the deer exchange. Last week, the Food Bank of Iowa serving nearly 5,000 people through its mobile food distribution at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The group says more than 60% were first-time visitors. In addition to the pandemic, Iowans have seen other forms of struggle this year, including flattened farm fields and building damage from this summer’s climate-fueled derecho storm.
Meanwhile, Wilkinson said, the effort shows hunters getting back to their roots by playing a role in combating hunger.
Wilkinson noted that, because of high demand, it’s unlikely the program can feed all families seeking a donation. That’s why they’re trying to get as many hunters as possible to participate, so they don’t have to turn away many requests.