Southeast Ohio Foodbank feeds hungry through deer season

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Local deer hunters may fill more than just their own fridges this white-tailed deer season as southeast Ohio’s regional food bank is once again accepting venison donations. 

The Logan-based Southeast Ohio Foodbank, a program of Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, is accepting deer meat donations to distribute to those in need across its 10-county service area, according to an Oct. 18 HAPCAP press release.


The food bank has historically participated in a venison donation program, but not for the past decade or so, said Ben Isham, coordinator for the food bank. The program began again last year. 

The donation program is made possible by Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry, a nationwide nonprofit organization, Isham said. 

“Essentially, people are able to donate deer, elk or livestock to the butcher, and the participating butcher … (is) Steve’s Meats,” Isham said. Steve’s Meats, located at 14200 Stout Road in Logan, declined to comment for this story. 

FHFH pays the processing fee for the donated meat, Isham said. “And then the butcher would notify us once it’s all processed and ready to be picked up.”

FHFH Executive Director Josh Wilson estimated that since 2008, “58,000 pounds of meat donated, processed and distributed in the (southeast Ohio) area,” he said in an email. 

Wilson noted that not all of those donations were necessarily distributed via the SE Ohio Foodbank, as other southeast Ohio groups are FHFH recipients, too.

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Approximately 17% of Athens County residents — just over 11,000 people — are “food insecure,” according to data from the Map the Meal study by Feeding America. This is defined as a “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Athens County’s food insecurity rate is about five percentage points higher than the statewide rate of 11.6% and the nationwide rate of 11.8%, according to Feeding America’s 2020 data.

Although Steve’s Meats is based in Hocking County, meat donated and processed there feeds families across southeast Ohio. 

“We actually give [the meat] to our member agencies, which (are) food pantries across the 10 counties that we serve,” Isham said. “They’re the ones that actually are handing it out to the clients.” Most of the time, the venison is ground or prepared as roast, he added. 

According to HAPCAP’s website, Athens County SE Ohio Foodbank member agencies include:

  • Athens Catholic Community Food Pantry via Christ the King Church; distributed at Athens County Jobs and Family Services, at 13183 State Route 13, Millfield.
  • Athens County Food Pantry, located at Athens County Jobs and Family Services.
  • Nelsonville Food Cupboard, Inc., at 421 Chestnut St. Nelsonville.
  • Salvation Army at 70 North Plains Road The Plains.
  • Monday Lunch Soup Kitchen, at 2 S. College St. Athens.
  • Federal Valley Resource Center Food Pantry, at 8225 State Route 329, Stewart.
  • Basic Needs Ministry, at 5331 State St. in Albany, 45710
  • Feed My Sheep Food Pantry, at 8279 Scott Road, New Marshfield, 45766
  • Greater Works Outreach Worship Center, at 200 Fort St. in Nelsonville.
  • Lutheran Social Services Mobile Pantry via The Plains United Methodist Church, at 3 N. Plains Road in The Plains.
  • Coolville Fire Department, at 2770 6th St. in Coolville.
  • Torch UMC (Feed My Sheep), at 29023 Torch Road in Torch.

The donation of venison, as well as other meats, has a huge impact on the food bank and its region-wide clientele, Isham affirmed. 

“Frozen protein specifically — it’s very sought-after from our food pantry,” Isham said. “Just with the price of everything going up, I know a lot of the food pantries just really appreciate it.”

Isham estimated that 400 pounds to 500 pounds of venison have been donated this year, although he will have a more accurate approximation by early next year. 

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, hunters have harvested 1,889 total deer in Athens County as of Nov. 29. The season began in mid-September and ends in February 2023.

The SE Ohio Foodbank posted directions for donating meat on its Facebook page:

  1. Bring the animal to Steve’s Meats.
  2. Let Steve know the animal is a donation to the SE Ohio Foodbank. The business can be reached at (740) 385-5907. 
  3. To drop off outside of Steve’s hours, ear tag the animal and indicate that it is a donation. Include name, license number, address and tag number. Leave the animal in the drop-off center. All processing is free of charge thanks to FHFH.

Elsewhere in southeast Ohio, Jeremy Bennett of New Straitsville also processes meat free of charge as a volunteer for FHFH. The meat he processes goes toward Hope Acts, a Christian mission also based in New Straitsville, according to its Facebook page, though he has only received about three donations this year. 

At one time, Athens County had a FHFH chapter based in Nelsonville, Bennett said. When it ceased operations, Bennett reached out to FHFH to start his chapter. 

According to FHFH’s website, volunteers are needed for OH-22, the district including Athens County, which also includes Gallia, Meigs and Washington counties. FHFH can be reached at (301) 739-3000 or for anyone interested in starting an Athens County chapter.

The SE Ohio Foodbank can be reached at (740) 385-6813; more information can be found at at and on the food bank’s Facebook page.

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