An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County


Food pantries benefit from Hunters Sharing the Harvest

Volunteers in Butler County load a truck with venison donated through Hunters Sharing the Harvest. (Source: Provided)

Pennsylvania’s rifle deer hunting season opened last weekend, giving hunters an opportunity to help their local communities reduce hunger and food insecurity.

Hunters Sharing the Harvest is a statewide venison donation program. It connects hunters with deer processors and food pantries in their area. Since 1991, donations through the program have totaled 2.2 million pounds, or 10 million servings.

In Lancaster County, there are two program coordinators, Barry Buhay and the Rev. Paul Hansen. The number of participating processors in the county has increased by two since last year, from eight to 10.

Donated venison is processed and donated to The Factory Ministries in Paradise, which distributes it through its Factory Market food pantry. It’s typically in the form of ground venison, market director Kerry Burns said.

In 2019, The Factory Ministries received 1,110 pounds of venison through the program. (Source: Provided)

The Factory Market is designed along the lines of a specialty grocery, allowing clients to pick and choose the foods they would like. They pay using “Factory Bucks,” earned through participation in Factory Ministries programs.

Across Pennsylvania, participating hunters shared a record 235,532 pounds of venison through Hunters Sharing the Harvest in 2022-23, which works out to roughly 1.25 million 3-ounce servings.

That eclipses the previous record, set in 2020-21, by nearly 25%.

Deer meat is lean and high in protein, an important factor for households that might struggle to obtain meat on a limited food budget.

It’s “organic, free-range, some of the healthiest protein you can find,” Hunters Sharing the Harvest Chairman Bill Sordoni told WITF. “If you talk to the food banks, they very rarely get protein.”

Hunters Sharing the Harvest receives support from individual and corporate donors, foundations and the state Game Commission and Department of Agriculture.