Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
Pennsylvania's more than 20-year-old program for donating venison to the hungry is ramping up for deer season, and the group is seeing a new surge in sponsorships.
Deer season begins Monday in Pennsylvania. Since 1991, the Hunters Sharing the Harvest group has asked deer hunters to leave some venison for Pennsylvania food banks.
"Even a couple pounds of hamburger maybe out of their bag when they take it along with them, that goes a long way," said Lorri Diller at a press event Tuesday. She's co-owner of Diller's Custom Deer Processing in Enola, Cumberland County. "And if everybody just gives a couple bags of burger, one-pound packs, it'll go a long way."
HSH is aiming to collect 100,000 pounds of venison for distribution statewide. Executive Director John Plowman said the goal has been the same every year. Last year, Hunters Sharing the Harvest distributed about 92,000 pounds.
The biggest cost for the nonprofit is reimbursing deer butchers who accept donated meat.
"They cannot do deer for us for free," said Plowman. "All of them will submit a bill to do all the deer that they do for us for the food bank program. Our program, in turn, needs to have the funds available to send them a check."
Hunters donating an entire animal are asked to make a $15 dollar tax-deductible down payment for the processing. But a combination of state funding, donations, and corporate sponsorships helps pay the lion's share of the bill.
This year, Plowman noted the increase in energy companies that have come on board as sponsors, including many in the natural gas drilling industry. Consol Energy is selling camouflage hunting caps emblazoned with its logo over the brim and a Hunters Sharing the Harvest logo on the side.
The industry's trade group, Marcellus Shale Coalition, is also a sponsor for the second year. Such companies have been polishing their image with similarly high-profile sponsorships, including at Penn State football games.
Plowman said energy companies' visibility among sportsmen groups is on the rise.
"Right now we see a growing trend that they want to work with the local communities and sportsmen," he said, "because if they can help a sportsmen's program, which Hunters Sharing the Harvest is, that brings them closer to being appreciated for some of their other work."
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