Manna for the hungry Deer meat: Food banks, soup kitchens benefit from Rick Wilson's network of hunters, farmers.

Bright Lights

November 28, 1998

THE EPIPHANY for Rick Wilson came on a Virginia highway when he saw a bedraggled woman waving for help. She had found a road-kill buck deer in the brush and wanted to get it in her auto. "My kids and me are hungry," she tersely explained, as Mr. Wilson loaded the carcass into the trunk.

That connection between desperate human hunger and the abundance of wild deer led to the Hagerstown man's involvement with a statewide group called Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry. The group aims to provide 250,000 pounds of venison a year to Maryland food banks and soup kitchens.

The problem is not getting enough donated deer -- some 75,000 were shot last year -- but the money to pay for butchering and wrapping the meat. FHFH pays 26 Maryland meat processors a discounted $35 fee. Mr. Wilson fears that the program, which is dependent on donations, may run out of funds this season.

But the ardent deer hunter and retired art teacher is confident in his mission: "Our need has always been answered," he says.

A small Maryland program began a half-dozen years ago, and went through several sponsors. Because Mr. Wilson's local program contributed almost half the statewide venison total, the state Department of Natural Resources asked him to organize the Maryland effort.

The overpopulation of deer in Maryland is a blessing, Mr. Wilson says. With 120,000 deer hunters in Maryland, and well over twice as many white-tailed deer, the potential for feeding the hungry is great. The overpopulation of deer in Maryland, as Mr. Wilson says, is "manna from heaven."

Bright Lights spotlights people who make a difference in the quality of life of this area. It appears periodically in this column.

The FHFH office can be reached at 301-582-4506.

Pub Date: 11/28/98

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