With Chronic Wasting Disease still on state’s radar, may not be as much venison to go around to food banks

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – It’s a big weekend for hunters as thousands gear up for Opening Day of Firearm Deer season that officially kicks off Sunday. The discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease could change the hunting game this season and the food banks that benefit from it.

Every year during deer hunting season, local food banks see a surge in venison donations from hunters, but with Chronic Wasting Disease still on the state’s radar, there may not be as much of that venison to go around this year.

“The way it’s going to affect us is one, because of the disease some people don’t want to go out and hunt because of the disease, but also there are processors that are not going to be processing in the Ingham County area because of the disease and they’re protecting their businesses and we understand that,” Kim Harkness, Board member for Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger, and Director of Operations for the Greater Lansing Food Bank said.

For the last 10 years, Tom Cullimore has led an initiative called HOPE, it stands for “help other people eat.”

He works with nine meat processors from across the region, delivering venison and other meats to 13 local food banks.

Deer hunting season is the busiest time for him; he says one of the meat processors he works with is sitting out this year for safety reasons.

“If they’re doing beef and pork and stuff like that, they don’t get any of them near that kind of product that they also process themselves,” Cullimore said.

But in terms of getting venison meat to the food banks, he says Chronic Wasting Disease won’t have much of an impact.

“I think it’s going to be just fine, I really do and I got a couple contacts through my processors where I can get this fabulously packaged chicken,” Cullimore said. “We just gotta wait it out, I know they’re doing everything they possibly can because this disease has been around for hundreds of years.”

“There is still a lot of people out there who are helping us, who are still going to be processing deer,” Harkness said.

Whether it’s chicken or venison, both Kim and Tom say no matter what, the freezers at the food bank will get filled up for the season.

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