In a time when “every little bit helps,” the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) Public Lands Division has found a big way to help those in need. KDWPT’s Public Lands staff donated 2,137 pounds of elk and bison meat to seven food banks across the state. The meat – delivered in five-pound boxes containing 20 one-quarter pound patties each – came from elk and bison herds managed at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in Canton and the Sandsage Bison Range near Garden City.
“We typically harvest one to two bison and a few elk annually at Maxwell and Sandsage,” Stuart Schrag, Director of KDWPT’s Public Lands Division, said. “This helps maintain an optimum herd size for available habitat, which keeps the herds healthy, and allows us to do disease testing. We then have the meat professionally processed and utilize it for education and outreach efforts throughout the year, but this year we decided to donate everything we had. It was our way of helping out our neighbors in need.”
As many Kansas food banks experience an increase in demand, donations such as this can go a long way. KDWPT’s donated elk and bison will feed approximately 8,500 people.
“We try to have a protein or meat item for every household, but access to meat is difficult,” Joe Seitz, Director of Our Daily Bread Food Pantry, a Wichita-based ministry of Catholic Charities, said. “One of these boxes is perfect for a family, so we’re very much appreciative of this.”
Seitz added that although times can be challenging, he finds joy in knowing the families they serve will be able to go home and eat.
“I love my job,” Seitz said. “We’re here to feed people, and any time we can form partnerships like the one we have with KDWPT, it’s a good thing.”
KDWPT staff who helped deliver the more than 400 boxes of meat statewide included Tom Norman, Manuel Torres, Cliff Peterson, Dustin Mengarelli, Jason Deal, Mike Nyhoff and Schrag.
“I’m continually impressed by the resourcefulness of our staff and our Public Lands Division is no exception,” KDWPT Secretary Brad Loveless said. “This effort is a fine example of the many ways our staff continue to find unique solutions to challenging situations, and I’m very proud that this particular solution will benefit Kansas families in need.”