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Bridgeport meat processor part of DNR Hunters Helping the Hungry Program

By JONATHAN WEAVER

NCWV Media

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Young and Stout Meat Processors in Bridgeport is the sole Harrison County processor part of the Department of Natural Resources Hunters Helping the Hungry program.

Fourth-generation Manager Stephen Stout said the family business, based in Bridgeport since 1942, has been involved in the Hunters Helping the Hungry program for at least six years.

“It’s a really good program,” Stout said. “My dad (Steve) started participating before I came into the business, and it’s definitely something that I want to participate in. It’s such a good program for so many reasons. It does not cost anything for somebody to donate.”

Stout and his father are also deer hunters and fishermen locally and in Pocahontas County. Stout encourages more hunters to participate as he personally has.

“I think a fair amount of people know, but I think a lot of people don’t know that really should,” Stout said. “I think if the word got out about the program and what it does, I think a lot more people would participate by knowing what a good program it was. There are a lot of reasons to participate in the program and very few reasons not to.”

He said being involved in the program doesn’t take a lot of extra effort due to his quality staff and equipment.

“A lot of people will harvest their deer and drop it off to our facility. We process it from there, freeze the ground meat and then send it to the food bank to distribute it to the homeless and the hungry,” Stout said. “All they have to do is make sure they harvest it legally. They just drop it off and we can process it pretty quick and efficiently.”

Meat will be given to the food bank after the season is over. Legal deer harvests will be collected after each season during the rest of 2017.

“Last year, we sent about 5,000 pounds,” Stout said.

Facing Hunger Food Bank Executive Director Cynthia Kirkhart said their food bank picks up the processed venison and pays for the processing fee before they are reimbursed monetarily by Mountaineer Food Bank. Facing Hunger Food Bank, which serves 17 counties, has been associated with the Division of Natural Resources program at least three years.

“Protein is such a valuable food resource for the people that we serve. This is a wonderful opportunity for people to enjoy hunting who might not need the meat and protein to donate it and benefit so many,” Kirkhart said. “There’s never enough meat.”

Mountaineer Food Bank Executive Director J. Chad Morrison said the food bank has been linked to Hunters Helping the Hungry since its inception in 1992 and is “absolutely” appreciative of any donations during the next few months.

“The program continues to be a really good opportunity for people to participate and donate in,” Morrison said. “It’s really a great opportunity for people to be able to donate protein through the deer meat because that’s one of the highest need items for us here at the food bank. It’s really hard to come by proteins — especially meat is very difficult for us to procure. Hunters that donate a deer will be donating anywhere between 40 and 50 pounds of protein that can be used for a lot of different things.”

Morrison said the venison will be distributed in January, February and March, but donations have dipped in 2016 to about 23,700 pounds. According to the Division of Natural Resources’ annual report, more than 39,600 pounds were donated in 2011.

“This program really helps us get through the winter months,” Morrison said. “I try to spread it around our service area in our state as much as we can to make sure each food pantry has access to as much as they can. The program’s struggled a little bit, but we’re hoping this year to get a lot of really good donations.”

“When we pick up the meat, there is no cost to the donors for the processing. But when the food bank picks up, we pay the processors a fee for the actual processing and the Department of Natural Resources reimburses the food banks so that we don’t have any cost overall throughout the process,” Morrison said.

Both food banks serve more than 250,000 individuals in all 55 West Virginia counties, Morrison estimated, and distribute 1.5-2 million pounds of meat.

There are 20 meat processors associated with the Hunters Helping the Hungry program, according to the online Department of Natural Resources brochure about the program. It states that since its inception in 1992, Hunters Helping the Hungry has provided venison for 1,266,805 meals for needy West Virginians.

“We’re trying to grow more processors — that’s part of our limitation because there’s several pockets throughout the state. We’re hoping to find people who want to participate on the processing end,” Morrison said.

In conjunction with the West Virginia Council of Churches, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Section has designated Nov. 5 as Share the Harvest Sunday. Congregations throughout the state are encouraged to collect donations to keep HHH alive and growing.

All donations go to help Mountaineer Food Bank and the Facing Hunger Food Bank pay to process hunter-donated deer and associated distribution costs.

In addition to deer harvests, monetary donations can be sent to: Hunters Helping the Hungry West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, 163 Wildlife Road, French Creek, WV 26218. Hunters are also encouraged to donate when signing up for their license.

Staff Writer Jonathan Weaver can be reached at (304) 626-1446 or [email protected]. Follow me on Twitter @jweaver_theet

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