N.L. considering program that would allow wild game donations to food banks

Moose graze in Franconia, N.H. in an Aug.21, 2010 file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Jim Cole

Food banks in Newfoundland and Labrador are being surveyed on a long-discussed proposal to allow hunters to donate moose meat and other game to those in need.

Eg Walters of the Community Food Sharing Association, an umbrella group for food banks in the province, is running the survey. He said work on a wild game donation program is in its early stages, and details such as the logistics around food safety and wildlife protection still need to be clarified.

Donations of fresh protein in the form of wild game would be “invaluable” to food bank users, he said in an interview Wednesday. “If you’re a mom and a pop with a couple of kids and don’t have any or much protein, the donation of a moose is really priceless.”

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“It’s an opportunity for hunters to have a bit of a social conscience when it comes to the less fortunate and an opportunity of food banks that wish to participate to have a variety of fare for their clients.”

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He said results of the survey will determine the next steps.

Wild game donation programs exist in Nova Scotia and in other parts of North America, but legislation in Newfoundland and Labrador does not allow game to be donated through a third party.

For years, the Land Resources Department had resisted the idea of letting hunters donate meat to food banks. But Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne says if there is explicit interest, he’ll work to change the law. An online petition circulating in recent weeks attracted 1,000 signatures and drew attention to the issue.

More than 20,000 licences have been issued this year to qualified hunters and the province has an abundance of moose. Byrne said the program could be beneficial if the desire is there, adding he’s open to starting a pilot project under existing legislation during this fall’s hunting season.

“That could be used as a potential source of protein for food insecure people, if indeed food insecure people want it and food banks are willing to distribute it,” Byrne said in a recent interview.

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Barry Fordham, a hunter who has been pushing the provincial government to allow a wild game donation program for years, said it’s a relief to see the government finally open to the idea. He has proposed a program called, “Hunters Helping the Hungry,” which he said would act as intermediary between hunters and food banks.

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“I really, really feel there will be a difference made through this,” Fordham said in a recent interview, adding he hopes to advise the government on any future changes to the law.

But for Fordham’s program to work, hunters need to be legally able to bring their game to a participating butcher who would process the meat. He said his program would ensure a steady supply of wild game to food banks across the province.

“If just left to the hunters, then I don’t think the program may be very beneficial,” Fordham said. “It’s okay for a pilot project, but I think … a program like Hunters Helping the Hungry has to be overseeing it to make sure that everything is running according to plan.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2020.

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