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Woods to School nutrition program connects hunters to children in need

BY Randy Zellers

ON 12-17-2019


Dec. 17, 2019

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

Woods to School nutrition program connects hunters to children in need
JONESBORO — Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry, in cooperation with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Craighead County Community Foundation, provided 4,000 packages of Arkansas-sourced venison snack sticks to less fortunate students in the Nettleton and Buffalo Island school districts in Jonesboro as part of its expanding Woods to School program that will provide 50,000 packages of snack sticks to students in 75 Arkansas schools this year.

The program is AHFH’s newest initiative to help feed families throughout Arkansas with meat donated from hunters throughout the state. Donated deer taken by hunters during urban archery hunts are processed into shelf-stable snack sticks that can be given to children through backpack programs. The food is placed discreetly in the students’ backpacks, so they can have the protein their growing bodies need during weekends and holidays when provided lunches are not available.

“Last year, we were able to provide 20,000 packages of snack sticks to 25 Arkansas schools, but this program has really grown in the last 12 months,” said AHFH Executive Director Ronnie Ritter. “We hope to provide 50,000 packages and help 75 Arkansas schools this year. The donation to Nettleton and Buffalo Island schools is the first expansion we’ve been able to make in northeast Arkansas.”

Woods to School nutrition program connects hunters to children in need
The Nettleton and Buffalo Island school districts each received 2,000 packages to distribute to students.

“We are excited to get the word out about this great way hunters are continuing to make a difference in people’s lives,” Ritter said. “And we’re always looking for new ways to partner with hunting groups and communities to extend any help we can to those in need.”

The urban archery hunts used to collect the venison have been established in Arkansas for many years to maintain deer populations at levels where they do not cause a nuisance or hazard to people and do not overpopulate the habitat available for them.

According to Ralph Meeker, AGFC Deer Program Coordinator, controlled hunts are the best method to reduce these deer populations.

“Hunters are our first and best tool at managing wildlife populations, and controlled urban hunts offer a safe, inexpensive and unobtrusive way to reduce deer numbers when coordinated with hunters organizations like the Arkansas Bowhunters Association.”

In addition to the Woods to School program, Arkansas hunters provided 88,000 pounds of ground venison to food banks across The Natural State last year thanks to AHFH. This created more than 352,000 servings of food for less fortunate individuals and families using meat donated from the last deer season.

“The program benefits everyone involved,” Meeker said. “Hunters get some extra motivation to continue pursuing their sport, we have the added incentive for them to remove enough deer to maintain healthy wildlife populations, and Arkansans in need get protein, which is the hardest thing for food banks to acquire.”

Contact Ritter at 501-282-0006 for more information about AHFH and the Woods to School program.

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