By DOUG GRAVES
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Following in the footsteps of many in the rural community, the Ohio Beef Council (OBC) announced last month the state’s beef farmers have donated a ton of beef to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank in a fight to combat hunger.
The OBC joined the Columbus (Ohio) Clippers’ “Striking out Hunger” effort with a goal of providing enough lean ground beef for 8,000 meals. Similarly, Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH) is in its sixth year of providing venison to hungry in the United States.
“Not every family has the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of lean beef in their diet, and because of this effort more than 8,000 Ohioans will,” said Bill Sexten, chair of the OBC Operating Committee.
The Columbus Clippers started this campaign last summer. For each strikeout recorded by the Clippers’ pitching staff during the season, two pounds of ground beef was donated. After hearing about this effort, the OBC joined in. Soon after that partners included the Ohio Soybean Council, Ohio Corn Marketing Program and the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
First to take on the plight of hunger, though, was the FHFH, which was created in 1997 by hunter Rick Wilson. Wilson searched for a way to get venison into the hands of the needy. It seemed a good idea, since there are an estimated 750,000 whitetail deer in Ohio and there are more car-deer collisions in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois than in any other states.
To this day, FHFH and hunters have helped harvest and distribute 116,000 pounds of venison to local food banks across the state. “With the dedication and generosity of FHFH and farmers, this deer donation program has grown every year,” said Jim Marshall, assistant chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
A total of 2,557 deer were donated during the 2011-12 hunting season. Venison that is donated to local food banks must be processed by a federal, state or locally inspected and insured meat processor participating with FHFH. There are 65 such processors in Ohio.
“We get calls all the time from farmers looking for hunters to help them lower the deer population in their area,” said Kathy Garza-Behr, of the Ohio Division of Natural Resources.
Farmers in other states have taken the challenge as well. In Illinois, a “Bushels for Hunger” effort in the fall results when farmers bring harvested corn and soybeans to elevators to be sold or for storage. Portions of the grain are often donated by farmers in the fight against hunger. In Illinois, more than seven million pounds of food are distributed, thanks to the grain collected.