Area food pantries receiving fewer venison donations

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - As the state celebrates the 20th year of its deer donation program, a Green Bay food pantry is seeing a disappointing trend continue: Less venison is ending up in the hands of those in need.

At Paul's Pantry in Green Bay, the freezers are empty of venison hamburger.

Two boxes on hand will be saved for Christmas.

"We're only able to do it for one or two weeks of distribution. Back in the day we used to be able to run it for a couple months," says Craig Robbins, Paul's Pantry Executive Director.

The heyday, according to Robbins, was the early 2000's when the pantry would receive more than 150 donated deer each fall.

"We used to get a 53-foot semi trailer, refrigerated, and park it on the side of our building, and we'd fill that opening weekend, front to back, so we're talking a lot of deer," recalls Robbins.

So far this year, through early bow and now gun season, the pantry has received 37 deer.

Part of the problem, Robbins says, is there are fewer meat processors taking part.

"Here in Brown County there isn't a processor left. I know there's some other counties in the same boat," says Robbins.

Marchant's Meats is one of two processors in Door County still involved in the deer donation program.

They feel the state's reimbursement to processors for participation needs to be adjusted to get more on board.

"I think the price of venison processing is going up, and I don't think they're keeping up with it. So, I really think people don't want to do it for nothing anymore; they want to get paid for what they do," says Mark Marchant, who has processed 12 deer so far this fall for the program.

With more hunting opportunities through the end of the year, Robbins is hoping more deer show up.

He's also banking on the state and processors to work to find a way to rejuvenate the deer donation program.

"You wonder for the future if we can keep people to keep donating," says Robbins.