ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERIC CLARK
A few years ago, Rick Wilson was driving along a Maryland highway when he noticed a woman standing by her car with the trunk open.
He stopped to see if the woman needed assistance. She asked him if he would help her load a dead deer into the trunk of her car. She had not struck the deer with her car, but was attempting to load the carcass into her trunk nonetheless.
Wilson informed the woman that by transporting the untagged deer, she risked being issued a citation from a wildlife officer or the state police.
The woman told Wilson she didn’t care. She and her kids were hungry.
The roadside encounter got Wilson thinking. Eventually he founded the Farmers and Hunters Feed the Hunger program, a program that now spans much of the United States including Kansas.
FHFH area coordinator Jeff Cady of Marion has spearheaded the program in Marion County and surrounding counties. Cady got involved with the program after reading a magazine article about it in a national hunting publication.
“It’s one of those things you read, and you know you have to be involved with it,” Cady said. “I thought this would be a good thing for the state of Kansas.”
Since 1997, FHFH has been responsible for processing more than 750 tons of venison and distributing more than six million meals to the needy.
Since its pilot program last year in Kansas, FHFH of Kansas has caught the interest of area farmers and hunters alike, Cady said.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “It has such a great reputation, and it has been exploding all around us.”
Cady said the program is hunter- and farmer-friendly and very simple.
“The hunter harvests the deer and takes it into the processing plant,” Cady said. “The program pays for the processing fees, and then the meat is distributed to needy families, churches or whoever needs it.”
Three meat lockers in the area are involved with the FHFH program: Hillsboro Refrigerated Lockers, Peabody Sausage House & Locker, and the Burdick Meat & Locker Plant.
Mike Berger, owner of the Peabody locker, said he thinks the program has potential.
“I know there is a lot of interest in the program,” Berger said. “We’ve had a lot of calls. Once the word gets out, I think it will be good, and I’m looking forward to it taking off.”
Although no criteria has been established to receive the processed meat, Cady hopes individuals won’t take advantage of the program.
“We don’t want to restrict anyone,” Cady said. “The biggest problem right now is that we fight people’s pride. Some people just have a hard time accepting help. Food banks, civic organizations and churches are usually among those who request the donations.”
The toughest hurdle facing the new program is the cost of processing the meat.
Although all the meat is donated at no cost to the program, Cady said the rising number of carcasses donated is exceeding the amount of money needed to process the meat.
“We’ve got meat that we’re giving out to needy families,” Cady said. “But we’ve got to find a way to generate some revenue. We’ve got enough deer for the first year of the program.”
Recently, FHFH received a boost from the Topeka Oil Company, which donated $10,000 to the cause.
“It was a message from heaven,” Cady said. “None of us talked to this company. They just did it. We just need to find another company or some corporate sponsors to step up and take care of the processing fees.”
For more information about the FHFH program, contact Jeff Cady at 620-382-3282 or visit FHFH on the Web at www.fhfh.org.