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Deer Donation program receives $25,000 to help feed Central Illinois families

deer donation program logo in prairie grass

URBANA, Ill. – More than a thousand Central Illinois families have been fed this winter thanks to a $25,000 grant from The Lumpkin Family Foundation. The foundation provided the grant to the University of Illinois Extension Deer Donation program in November to help reimburse meat processors.

The Deer Donation pilot program launched in 2022. The 12-county program aims to fight food insecurity by connecting hunters in East Central Illinois with meat processors and food pantries. One in 10 people in Illinois struggle with hunger every day, including one in eight children.

The grant will help cover the costs of processing deer donated by hunters. The venison is then provided to food pantries for distribution. Each deer can provide 240 meals.

The program is funded by grants, donations, and the Health Equity Achieved Together project, a multi-disciplinary collaboration with University of Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education. The deer donation program has also received support from food pantries, hunting organizations such as Whitetails Unlimited Illinois, and the Illinois Association of Meat Processors.

The Lumpkin Family Foundation is a private, family foundation created in 1953 from the estate of Besse A. Lumpkin of Mattoon. The foundation’s mission is to support education, preserve and protect the environment, and foster opportunities for leadership in Central Illinois.

Learn more about the Deer Donation program and how to donate at

SOURCES: SNAP-Ed Educator Michelle Fombelle and Nutrition and Wellness educator Caitlin Mellendorf, and SNAP-Ed Educator Meredith Probst

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.

ABOUT SNAP-ED: Making healthy choices is not always easy, especially when families are struggling financially. University of Illinois SNAP-Ed provides practical healthy eating and physical activity solutions for Illinois families and participates in strategic local, regional, and statewide partnerships to transform the health of Illinois communities.