This past October in The Overcast, I outlined a program called Hunters Feeding the Hungry. This program would allow hunters to donate wild game to food banks.

One theme to emerge from the resulting conversations, outside of legalities and liabilities, was the possibility that the food banks themselves may not possess the capabilities or desire to distribute wild game.

Minister Byrne’s Feels Strongly Food Banks Are Not Interested in Being Able to Provide Donated Wild Game

            This possibility was raised most strongly by Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources Gerry Byrne. During an email conversation with NAHA President Barry Fordham, one cc’d to local media, Minister Byrne stated,   

“A key stakeholder in the proposal that you are advancing are food banks. Their views need to be considered and included. Your proposal is absent of any commitment of food banks requesting big game meat. While I acknowledge that some individual food banks may be willing to accept the resulting liabilities and benefits of participating in such a scheme,on a case by case basis, it is evident from our own consultations that any organization accepting and taking responsibility for raw game meat, that hasnot been government inspected and certified, or whose handling conditions cannot be guaranteed, would make for a risky proposition for the organization to accept.”

            He went on to say, “I do not have evidence that food banks are prioritizing this initiative. In fact, given the fact that food banks already have access to moose meat from the Charitable License Program, and none have requested any such access, that is telling. And since the more recent public attention to the issue, no food bank have contacted myself or my department looking for such a scheme.”

            Minister Byrne makes an important point, if food banks themselves are unable or unwilling to accept and distribute wild game meats, than the issue ends right there.

2 Vital Organizations Are Keen on Such a Program

I contacted MUN Campus Food Bank,the Single Parent Association, and the Community Food Sharing Association(CFSA) to get clarity directly from the source. All three possess the capability to store and distribute perishables, are open to exploring such a program,and needed public safety concerns addressed.

            At MUN Campus Food Bank, Anne Sinnott responded. “Accepting wild game is not a matter the Campus Food Bank board has discussed, as it’s not a topic that anyone has brought to our attention. I would imagine that if we were to participate in such a program, we would first seek advice from the CFSA, our local food bank organization, about food safety and liability issues. If we ever were to accept wild game, we’d need it ready to give out to people.”

            Anne continues, “We have several each of fridges and freezers. We do have the ability to store perishable foods. Best I can say right now is we would be willing to consider taking the wild game, but would need to talk some more about it.”

            At the Single Parent Association of  Newfoundland (SPAN), Executive Director Elaine Balsom said, “SPAN would be more than willing to accept wild game if the big game regulations were to be amended. This would be another source of food for our single parent families, and would mean meats in their food hampers.SPAN would be able to freeze the big game, but it would have to come to us ready to distribute to our clients. For example, if the big game was moose meat, it would need to be cut into steaks and properly packaged. Any such meat would also have to be government inspected.”

            Elaine continues, “My understanding is that such a program exists in other provinces, and it would certainly be beneficial if the same program were introduced here in the province. SPAN relies primarily on CFSA to acquire food to fill its shelves, and to distribute to single parent families. If a program was in place for hunters to donate their big game, it would be donated to CFSA who then would distribute it to food banks in the province including SPAN’s.”

Community Food Sharing Association Able, Have No Liability Concerns, But Reluctant

            I interviewed Community Food Sharing Association (CFSA) General Manager Egbert Walters over the phone. To paraphrase, he said he thinks the hunters feeding the hungry program has real merit. and that CFSA has capacity and equipment necessary to store and distribute perishable foods; it’s what they do every day of the year. And yes they are insured against liability issues.

            But that doesn’t mean they are willing to take chances. Before this program is started, they would need to know all of the specifics about how things are to be handled. That means an understanding of the complete food chain progress from A to Z, with all of the T’s crossed and I’s dotted.

            As for what food banks should do, he says that is entirely up to them. The CFSA does not set policy, and each individual food bank would need to make the decision to participate in the program for themselves, when the time comes.

            For instance, he says he knows from conversations with the Salvation Army that they would not be willing to participate currently, as things now stand, whereas other she is sure would.

            Walters does personally think that this program will work, but not without considerable caution. While he says it would be wonderful if a young boy or girl could enjoy a nutritious meal of moose meat, he feels the public need to be looked after,and we need to move cautiously forward, to put this program in place in the right way. With all of the proper checks and balances.

Liability & Compliance Not An Issue

As the food banks and the CFSA have made clear, they are capable, equipped, and willing, under the right conditions, to accept wild game meats for distribution, if the Big Game regulations are indeed amended.

            Government inspection is something all parties would need, and a criteria which can be satisfied by the processors. Under the Meat Inspection Regulations, approved wild game is permitted in government-inspected and licensed establishments.

If wild game is processed in the lawful manner, then donated to food banks by hunters, there should not be any legal obstructions, other than Big Game Regulations, to prevent such meat from being distributed.

            As for liability concerns, The Donation of Food Act protects someone from liability in almost all circumstances except those who donate for profit, and those who knowingly donate food that is unfit to eat due to sanitary conditions.

Under the Food Premises Act, non-profit groups are given extensive exemptions to the multiple regulations under that Act, so long as they follow standard health guidelines.

            MUN  Campus Food Bank’s main hesitation was due to unfamiliarity, not any lack of willingness or capability. SPAN was extremely enthusiastic about the prospect, as long as certain criteria were met.

As for the CFSA, they want to see the public protected and well fed, and acknowledge that done properly the Hunters Feeding the Hungry program can achieve that. Food banks exist after all to provide nutritious food to those in need, and another source of high quality protein would be an extraordinary gift, especially heading into the winter months at the conclusion of the hunting season.

             Hopefully this has addressed Minister Byrne’s valid concerns, and we can move forward with a little more hope of a little more food on the shelves as we head into the new year.