Hunting for hunger

Nine-year-old New Melle resident starts charitable program to encourage hunters to donate their deer meat to local food pantries

By Brett Auten

The fact that there are people in the area who are going hungry doesn’t sit well with David Neier. 

Last year, after a service at Morningstar Church in O’Fallon, Neier was having a snack with his grandparents when a discussion sprung up about the church’s Backpack Impact Program. In that program, bags of food are delivered to a local school and then dispersed to over 50 students.

That got the wheels turning in Neier’s head. The New Melle resident is an avid hunter.

“We live deep in the country,” he said. “(Hunting) is pretty much what we do.”

And soon he put two and two together. What if he donated his deer to help prevent hunger? And maybe others in the area would be willing to do the same. 

From that spark, Hunt for Hunger was launched. The then nine-year-old Neier went door to door to spread awareness and to seek assistance.

“We went all around town and put out fliers all over New Melle,” the Daniel Boone Elementary student said. 

This program was made possible by working in cooperation with Share the Harvest and Operation Food Search of St. Charles. Dan’s Country Meats received and processed the deer free of charge.  Through the support of those agencies and area hunters, Hunt for Hunger was able to deliver 1,500 pounds of venison in 2017.

After processing, the venison was distributed to several local food pantries in the region.  Several of the pantries had never received venison before and were grateful to be able to share it with the families in the community that are struggling.

But that was last year. This year, statistics from the Million Meals Campaign show that one-in-four children in the St. Louis area do not know where their next meal is coming from. With deer season fast approaching, Neier has set a goal of 2,000 pounds this year and to help reach this goal, Josephville Meat Market has been added to include the Wentzville area.  

And importantly, Share the Harvest/Operation Food Search has agreed once again to pay for all processing fees. 

     

Hunt for Hunger has also added another option for non-hunters, you can donate ground beef that will be distributed to the area food pantries by merely contacting the processors.

Neier and Hunt for Hunger are hoping hunters will donate all or part of their field-dressed deer to either location. Dan’s Country Meats is located at 3622 Mill St. in New Melle and the phone number is 636-828-5266. Josephville Meat Market is located at 1363 Josephville Road in Wentzville, and its phone number is 636-327-5455.

The now 10-year-old Neier is a power-hitting first baseman for the New Melle Blues and swims year-round with the Parkway Swim Club. The Cardinal fan – who named Matt Carpenter as his favorite player – has always been active in charity programs. Recently he did a Swim Across American fundraiser for cancer research at Alpine Lake in Innsbrook and also volunteered for the Million Meals project. 

But his greatest passion is the outdoors. He is an avid hunter, both bow and gun, and if possible during the summer he would spend every free minute fishing.  His goal is to one day be a Missouri Conservationist.

“Fishing is a blast,” he said. “And we hunt mostly squirrel, deer and turkey.” 

Karen Gladieux is a community volunteer with Share the Harvest/Operation Food Search. After witnessing Neier’s success last season, she believes he will be able to exceed his goal for the upcoming hunt.

“He was amazing last year,” Gladieux said. “To be that young and that concerned about people that he doesn’t even know is pretty incredible. You don’t see that kind of maturity as much as you would like. David has a lot of courage to not only promote Hunt for Hunger in his school but he also delivered the meat. He saw it all the way through. He’s an impressive young man.” 

CUTLINE: Submitted photos