WASHINGTON — Hunters for the Hungry is appealing to gun owners with a good shot to help feed the needy this holiday season.

The nonprofit based in Virginia says deer meat donations are down by more than 11 tons compared with last year.

“We would just ask hunters, if they are able to, to go hunting for people who are hungry, people who are struggling to make ends meet,” says Laura Newell Furniss, the director.

The nonprofit says on its website that 140,472 pounds had been donated as of Dec. 16. That’s the lowest total in 17 years.

The group encourages hunters to donate deer, and it uses funding to pay the processing and packages costs. From there, venison goes to food banks, soup kitchens and religious food pantries.

Those programs have sounded the alarm.

“Their need for food is increasing, and about a third of the programs that we normally give meat to  we haven’t been able to give any meat, and the other two-thirds have been greatly reduced,” she says.

Hunters for the Hungry is sending letters to hunters who previously provided deer to help make up the shortfall.

In Virginia, the deer season goes through Jan. 3.

The nonprofit says a disease in one part of the state has cut into the deer population. The rising cost of red meat at the supermarket has also made hunters more hesitant to give away their deer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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