- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2007

Venison might have seemed like an unusual choice last night for a dinner for the area homeless at the Central Union Mission — unless you knew the Sportsman Channel was a sponsor.

“We wanted to do it, and it’s absolutely fabulous,” said Michelle Scheuermann, a spokeswoman for Sportsman Channel, the cable TV system that features hunting and fishing programs.

Baseball-sized venison meatballs were centered amid green beans, mashed potatoes, bread and gravy on plates set out on white tablecloths inside the R Street Northwest mission’s dining hall for more than 150 homeless residents.

The homeless said they liked the giant venison meatballs, the side dishes and desserts of ice cream and cherry pie.

“The meal was excellent,” said Russell Williams, 53. “I’ve had deer before, and this was very, very good.”

Added Frederick Cox, 55, “It was excellent, superb,” and, he too, said he had eaten venison before, although it was several years ago.

The event was sponsored by the Sportsman Channel and the Safari Club International Foundation’s Sportsmen Against Hunger to coincide with the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing”s annual convention. .

“Some people who go out hunting don’t need all the meat they get,” said Gene Rurka, chairman of humanitarian services for the Safari Club’s foundation.

Indeed, statistics indicate that deer populations are increasing in the United States. Farmers are complaining that the wild animals are eating grain and hay crops before they mature. And some state governments are encouraging hunters to reduce the deer population.

In Iowa, a Help Us Stop Hunger effort was created in 2003, and hunters last season donated more than 250,000 pounds of venison to food banks. Last season, Iowa hunters shot more than 210,000 deer.

Last year, Sportsmen Against Hunger officials said 94,815 pounds of meat were donated to charitable organizations. So far this year, officials say, chapters across the country have almost doubled last year’s donations.

“Venison is tremendously healthy for you,” Mr. Rurka said.

“It contains lots of protein, no chemicals and it’s good protection against cancer.”

The meal sponsors said they have members in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

“It’s about conservation,” Mr. Rurka said.

Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry, operating in 30 states, has donated 1,600 tons of venison to food banks since 1997. It was founded by retired Maryland schoolteacher Rick Wilson, who warned a woman as she struggled to load a road-kill deer in her car trunk that she could be arrested.

“I don’t care,” she told him. “My kids and me are hungry.”



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