A bill in the Missouri Legislature to allow food pantries to receive/distribute deer jerky could dovetail with Missouri's Share the Harvest program to better feed the hungry.
As we recently reported, Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, has filed Senate Bill 662 this legislative session, which would change the definition of "shelf stable packaged food" to allow for venison to be donated as frozen meat or as jerky.
Current state law requires donated venison meat to be frozen and packaged. This bill would change the law to allow it to be distributed as packaged, unfrozen meat, as long as it follows other existing food regulations.
This would let Missouri deer hunters, through the Share the Harvest program, donate deer jerky through the program.
Since 1992, when Share the Harvest began, the program has provided more than 4 million pounds of venison.
Tyler Schwartze was among those who testified for the bill. He is the executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, which teams up with the Missouri Department of Conservation to administer Missouri's Share the Harvest program.
He said the jerky could be used in food banks' buddy pack programs for children.
Feeding Missouri, the advocacy coalition of the six Missouri food banks, said protein is a constant need at food banks, and this bill could make it more accessible.
Deer meat offers lean protein and has a longer shelf life than refrigerated meat.
As long as other existing food regulations are followed, we see only an upside to this bill. It has the potential to offer needed protein to families that rely on food pantries for their meals.
We hope the Missouri Legislature gives the measure swift passage.