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Central Alberta hunters who shoot more game than they can eat are being asked to donate surplus meat to food banks.

JIMMY JEONG/The Globe and Mail

Central Alberta hunters who shoot more game than they can eat are being asked to donate surplus meat to food banks.

A spokesman for a program called Hunters Who Care says the hardest thing for food banks is to get fresh meat.

Adam Mirus, who is also a fish and wildlife officer, says his colleagues help inspect any such meat that's given to food banks.

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Hunters Who Care has been running in Alberta since 1996, but regional food banks have barely benefited.

Fred Scaife, executive director of the Red Deer Food Bank, can only remember one game meat donation in his 16 years on the job.

Scaife says low donations from hunters may be connected to the lack of butchers who are participating in the program.

"We would love to get more. I believe very strongly in the program," said Scaife, who added the food bank's aboriginal clients would be particularly grateful to have fresh game meat in their hampers.

Another plus would be that the food bank wouldn't have to spend as much of its monetary donations on meat purchases.

Mirus said he would be thrilled if more butchers signed on. They are paid for processing whatever portion of meat is donated to a food bank.

Fish and Wildlife has donated meat seized from hunters to the food bank, he said. For example, an elk that was illegally shot on private land without the landowner's permission was turned over to a participating butcher.

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Mirus stressed that he doesn't want anyone to think "we're going around and picking up road kill." All of the meat has to be fresh, inspected and processed by authorized butchers.

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