With deer hunting season in full swing, one of the most impactful programs in the state – the Mississippi Wildlife Federation’s Hunter’s Harvest Program – has begun, allowing hunters to share their harvest with the state’s neediest families and children. The Hunter’s Harvest program takes care of the underprivileged across the state with healthy and nourishing meat during the winter months. It is estimated that some 400,000 Mississippians, including more than 93,000 children, live below the federal poverty line and receive emergency food each year. “This life-changing program helps meet one of Mississippi’s greatest needs, taking care of impoverished families and children statewide,” said Ashlee Ellis Smith, executive director of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation (MWF). “White-tailed deer are an overly abundant natural resource here in Mississippi, and Hunter’s Harvest is a great way for deer hunters to manage the resource and help those that are less fortunate at the same time.” Donated venison supplies a low-cost source of protein that is often lacking in the diets of underprivileged Mississippi families. The Hunter’s Harvest Program works with deer hunters and participating deer processors from across the state to provide a network for the donation, processing and distribution of venison harvested by Mississippi sportsmen. The donated venison is distributed through the Mississippi Food Network to their member agencies operating food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other social services agencies across the state. “Every pound of venison donated to the program provides four meals for needy Mississippians,” said Charles H. Beady, Jr., chief executive officer of Mississippi Food Network. “Last year alone, the program provided more than 30,000 meals for families in need. Mississippi’s deer hunters should be very proud of what they are doing to help those who are less fortunate here at home.” The Hunter’s Harvest program began in 2011, and provides more than 10,000 pounds of venison a year – some 40,000 meals – to the impoverished. More than 30 processors participate in Hunter’s Harvest, which benefits 33 charities and other organizations statewide. MWF provides promotional branded material such as banners, brochures and freezer bags to the processors, and even freezers if needed. Hunters can choose to donate all or a portion of their harvest to the program in one of several ways. They can “pitch in a pound” wherein they donate a portion of their processed order to the program, or they can donate an entire deer and either pay the processing fees themselves or request that the Hunter’s Harvest Program pay the expenses for processing. The venison is then ground and kept in frozen storage until it is picked up by a designated charity for use in that charity’s food program. To find a participating processor in your area or to make a financial contribution to the Hunter’s Harvest Program, visit www.mswildlife.org/hunters-harvest or contact the MWF at 601-605-1790. Hunter’s Harvest is one of the cornerstone programs at MWF. Other signature initiatives include Adopt a Stream, the Mississippi Conservation Achievement Awards, the Mississippi Wildlife Extravaganza, its many coastal programs – including Habitat Stewards, Art and Ecology Summer Camp, marine fisheries and Gulf restoration issues, the youth Outdoorama, and various youth hunts and fishing adventures, the Asian carp/invasive species fight, the fight against Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and more. MWF is committed to engaging more youth, women and minorities into sportsmen’s and wildlife pursuits, expanding and enhancing existing programs and adding new youth, education and advocacy programs. It includes initiatives to protect and restore wildlife habitat, and bolster the growth, membership and funding levels of MWF.