TYLER (KYTX) - Hunting season began earlier this month, but bagging that prize buck isn't the only thing on hunters' minds. They are also trying to put food on the table for other families. CBS 19's Amanda Roberson explains how East Texas hunters are helping through a state program called "Hunters For the Hungry".
One in five Texas households found themselves at risk of hunger last year. "Hunters For the Hungry" aims at lowering that number by allowing hunters to donate their venison to those in need. With a strong number of hunters right here in East Texas, surprisingly, the state said only one meat business in East Texas is donating to the program.
For the fourth year, Lynch's Food Store owner Joe Lynch in Tyler is turning skinned, gutted dear meat donated by hunters into ground meat for families in need.
"You can kind of picture just this one ham would probably feed two or three meals for a family," Lynch explained.
A back leg for now but he said donations come in all shapes and sizes. "If a hunter wants to keep his back straps and his two back hams, just donate the neck meat and two front shoulders or something, they can do that."
More than 200 pounds of venison have been donated so far this year, but that's a far cry from the 2,000 pounds he's expecting to donate by the end of deer season. "It seems like we have more donated toward end of season. A hunter will kill the first deer and he'll put it in his freezer, and he still likes to hunt so the next deer he'll start donating from there on."
The ground up donation is packaged in two pound bags. A whole, average size doe provides about 40 pounds of meat. "After I get so many pounds, 50 pounds, 100 pounds I'll call one of the organizations that we donate to and they come pick it up."
"We sort it, inspect it, and then it goes out to our 200 partner agencies," explained Karolyn Davis with the East Texas Food Bank. It's one of the organizations Lynch donates the meat to, providing food to over 83,000 East Texans.
"We appreciate it so much," Davis added. "Because protein is a very hard item for us to get and that high quality meat is really important to our clients and those who we are feeding."
As Lynch fills more bags with venison, he hopes other East Texas hunters will help feed the hungry. "It helps the community and I don't want to see meat go to waste."
Most meat processing businesses that are part of the "Hunters For the Hungry" program charge hunters about $40 to cover labor costs, but not here. The East Texas Woods and Water Foundation subsidizes that fee so it costs hunters next to nothing.
Right now, Lynch donates to the East Texas Food Bank and the Salvation Army, but Lynch said if there's a particular organization a hunter wants to donate to, and it's a group approved by the state, he has no problem sending the meat to that group.
For more information on the "Hunters For the Hungry" program, visit http://tacaa.org/hunters-for-the-hungry.
Lynch's Food store is located at 3400 E. 5th St., Tyler, TX 75707. The phone number is 903-593-1521.