BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – This weekend marks the beginning of deer-hunting season with firearms, and for one nonprofit, that makes it the busiest time of the year. Hunters for the Hungry provides free meat to thousands in need across Virginia, but this year in Roanoke, one processing plant has closed its doors, forcing others to take on more work.
Sunday afternoon, David Harris' employees at Harris Meat Processing were busy chopping and packaging a major increase in donations from deer hunters.
"Due to the plant that closed in Roanoke, Overstreet, we're double the donations we normally have," Harris said.
Overstreet had been serving the Roanoke area for years. Now, five processing plants in Roanoke's surrounding counties are keeping Hunters for the Hungry going to help those who depend on the meat from the charity.
"It helps out a lot of families. It helps a lot of families, they have some meat extra, other than just the other dried, canned foods," Harris said.
"It's the best form of protein that you can have. There's no fat to it," said Sherry Crumley, who works for the Buchanan Area Ministerial Association, or BAMA, that manages several food pantries in Botetourt County. She says they rely on the venison provided by Harris.
"Until they signed on as processors, Botetouert County did not have a processor for Hunters for the Hungry, and we're a rural county, we have lots and lots of hunters," Crumley said.
Crumley said it's ground meat and steaks that would just be thrown away if not for the program.
"When farmers get damage permits, it would amaze you the number of deer that get thrown into a pit, so we try to make it as easy as possible for farmers and hunters to donate," Crumley said.
Hunters for the Hungry also donates to larger organizations like Feeding America Southwest Virginia, which just reported a 50 percent drop in donations this past September. That's why Harris is encouraging anyone who hunts to think about others.
"We just need more donations so we can cover more food pantries, because we've only had enough for the local town here lately," Harris said.
So far, Harris is up to almost 600 pounds of processed venison. With a hunting season that lasts until Dec. 2, he says it's a good start.
To donate to Hunters for the Hungry, click here.