Indiana Hunters Have Fed the Hungry With Two Million Meals Worth of Venison

by Jon D. B.

“When I look at the numbers, it’s hard to believe that I said two million meals of venison. That’s a lot,” says Indiana’s Debra Treesh, founder of Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry. “But also it unfortunately doesn’t even scratch the surface, especially during COVID times.”

Treesh is celebrating the 10th anniversary of her nonprofit, Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry. Today, HFH is partnered with over 80 meat processors. They work with 500 Indiana hunger relief organizations to donate venison from hunters to residents struggling with hunger. And as of 2022’s start, they’ve provided millions of meals.

“We all fall on tough times and someone is there wanting to help,” adds Capt. Jet Quillen for Outdoor News. A member of DNR’s law enforcement division, Capt. Quillen runs the Sportsmen Benevolence Fund that helps cover costs of processing deer meat that hunters harvest. “Whether that’s hunters or a state law enforcement agency, someone is there for them.”

Through Treesh’s organization alone, less fortunate Indianans have received 500,000 pounds of venison. And at four meals a pound that’s roughly 2 million meals.

This fantastic number helps feed the nearly 850,000 Indiana citizens unable to afford meat. More than 25% of those struggling with hunger in the state are children. These numbers come pre-pandemic, too, and are likely far higher in 2022.

“There are a lot of people unemployed and COVID has hurt a lot of folks,” adds Gene Kuntz, head of Hunters for the Hungry out of the Dubois County Sportsmen’s Club that works in tandem with Treesh’s HFH. Instead, “They are focused on keeping the lights on,” he says.

Right now, the cheapest meat available in Indiana is ground beef at $6.99 a pound. “That’s expensive,” Treesh offers. “I can see why people can’t afford to get meat.”

The Goal: Educate New Indiana Hunters and Anglers on How to Donate Extra Meat

But the pandemic has also brought record numbers of people back to the outdoors. Indiana is seeing record fishing and hunting license sales. For Capt. Quillen, this creates a bountiful base to help those in need.

“There are a lot of new hunters and fishermen, and we need to educate those new folks and let them know this program is available,” he says. “We’re the law enforcement division of DNR and want to serve our public and the citizens of Indiana, and this is just another way to give back. It truly is a partnership between all of us, which is with one goal to donate back to those who need it.”

To donate, Debra Treesh recommends that hunters with venison to spare first contact approved meat processors. Processors and butchers must be food-safe certified with the Board of Animal Health and DNR to qualify.

“I’m a deer hunter myself and a lot of hunters would like to go out and harvest more deer but they can only eat one and then they’re done,” Kuntz adds. “But now we have a program where hunters can go out and take another deer or two and donate it to feed the hungry.”

Certified butchers process deer meat into ground venison; the most versatile product for family meals. Then, processors contact Indiana food banks to notify them of meat availability. Treesh and Kuntz’s organizations will then cover the cost of processing, which is typically $100-$150.

“When you consider everything we’ve done, t’s a testament to what we’re doing and also the fact that the need is still there,” Kuntz concludes.