Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry comes to Ontario
I’m sure some of our readers have heard of the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program, also known as FHFH, which has been in the US and New Brunswick for years. But if you are anything like me, you may have also wondered why the program wasn’t available everywhere. Thankfully, due to recent government policy changes, the program is now spreading into new areas of Canada.
What is FHFH?
A volunteer-based program created in the US in 1997 by founder Rick Wilson, FHFH allows farmers and hunters to donate food animals (deer, moose, elk, beef and pork) to be processed and used to feed the hungry through food banks, soup kitchens and other food programs. In the US, the program was so successful, with up to 1.2 million meals supplied annually to the needy, that it was decided to try it here in Canada. In 2009, the FHFH began operating in New Brunswick, and based another success story, it is now being expanded to other provinces, starting with Ontario.
The program’s benefits:
Anyone who has ever volunteered for a food bank or soup kitchen knows that the one item always in short supply is healthy, lean protein. Due to the problems associated with donating and transporting frozen meat during food drives, the problem is understandable. However, by becoming organized, FHFH is able to work hunters and farmers to get protein in the freezers of these organizations, where it is so badly needed.
Apart from the obvious benefit of feeding the hungry, I’m very excited about another benefit this program brings to Canada: positive PR for the hunting community. Too often hunters are branded as “gun-toting yahoos out to kill Bambi,” though anyone who does some research for themselves can find this is unfounded hyperbole, many non-hunters believe stereotypes like these, which are parroted by anti-hunting groups. What better way to change that image than through a program like FHFH?
While we currently have some fantastic hunting organizations in this country working to better represent hunters and protect our heritage, the audience is fairly limited. FHFH, however, presents a unique opportunity to bring the discussion to the general public’s kitchen tables—literally. Therefore, the program can also work as a powerful tool for us to educate the non-hunting community about what our sport is truly about. After all, it would be pretty hard to convince somebody with a box of donated venison, who would otherwise have an empty freezer, that hunting is barbaric and needless, right?
How it works:
Hunters who wish to donate meat simply need to field dress the animal and transport it to one of the participating provincially licensed and inspected meat processors, which are listed on FHFH Canada’s website. The butcher will take it from there. The animals are processed, packaged and frozen before being distributed to local charities such as food banks. All costs associated with the processing, packaging, and freezing are paid by FHFH with dollars attained through fundraising.
How you can help:
While FHFH will need donated meat as early as this fall, they need to get everything operational first. This requires two key components: volunteers and money. According to Kyle Worsley, one of the program’s Ontario coordinators, the FHFH will need to raise $10,000 to cover initial expenses and begin accepting meat donations. If this target is reached by mid to late September, we could see Ontario food banks receiving venison and moose for the upcoming hunting season. Should fundraising efforts fall short, meat donation will be delayed to 2013′s hunting season.
As an Ontario hunter, I am very excited to see this program finally available in my province. It helps the hungry, gives me an excuse to spend more time in the field, and helps show people that many Canadian hunters are doing good things not only for the environment, but also for our communities.