A new program is under way that will add to local food pantries’ ability to feed the needy in the community.
The Food OutReach Co-op of Effingham announced that local deer processor Van Horton of Horton’s Processing, would be participating in the “Hunters for the Hungry” program.
This will mark the first time Effingham County has tapped into this nationally recognized program and Horton’s Processing is the only processor participating in the area. The program is designed to help feed those in need with deer hunters donating their deer to participating processors who prepare the highly nutritious venison for distribution to food banks.
The meat is processed as ground venison and packaged in one-pound freezer packages, which can be prepared in the form of protein-rich chili, lasagna, meatballs and burgers.
Participating food banks in Effingham include G.L.O.W. Ministry, God’s Mission House, Manna House, The Filling Station and Rincon First Christian Church.
“We’ve actually seen an increase, probably double our families, and we’re actually open twice as much now,” said Janice Williams of G.L.O.W. Ministries. “We’re just seeing a lot of single mothers. They’re working, they’re not necessarily unemployed, but they just have such a household and they’re just trying to make ends meet.”
Linda Fortson of God’s Mission House said their clientele has increased from 34 families last year to almost 200 families a month. Her husband Ernie Fortson said they had 110 families in three days in the first weekend of the month.
Archie Jenkins, F.O.R.C.E. program coordinator, emphasized that all donated venison is used within the county.
“All this food stays local,” he said. “The working poor is one of the fastest growing segments of our population.
The five food pantries in Effingham County set a record, as far as the number of families that were served in a one-month period, in September.
Horton was enthusiastic about the program and said he had been trying to get into this for a year now. He said that even without the new program being advertised yet, hunters have already been asking him about donating. There is no charge to hunters donating deer to the program.
“We’ve already gotten three times the deer this year than last,” he said.
Food assistance can be obtained by contacting Jenkins at 826-5300. The F.O.R.C.E. program is a collaboration of local churches, civic organizations, health and human services agencies, food pantries and others who make referrals to food pantries. The program is sponsored by Effingham Family Connection/Communities in Schools and the United Way.
Horton’s Processing is located at 620 Chester Thomas Rd., off Highway 21, six miles north of Springfield. For more information on donating, call 754-9791.