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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Seasons of giving"

ALBANY, Nov. 14 -- The state’s Venison Donation Coalition sums up the core of its mission this way: “With the downturn of the economy, budget cuts throughout the country, and increased layoffs, more and more Americans are feeling the crunch and being left hungry. Those going hungry are families, children and single parents and the donation of venison can help feed these people.”

It couldn’t be timelier to issue a reminder on the Coalition’s admirable efforts. First, and most strikingly, recently released census figures reveal that the state’s poverty rate is the highest it’s been since 1998. More than three million New Yorkers live below the official poverty level. That’s the highest total in 12 years. One anti-hunger advocate noted that this new data means “that if New York State residents in poverty all held hands, they could create a line that would run from Times Square to the Golden Gate Bridge.” A reminder’s in order, as well, because of the
fast approaching holiday season, a time of giving, and, more directly, with the regular deer hunting season opening across our region and throughout the Southern Zone this Saturday, November 19, at sunrise.

[A brief side note: this year’s regular deer hunting season marks the implementation of new laws that I sponsored this year with local assemblymen Phil Palmesano and Chris Friend that permanently authorize rifle hunting in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties. Deer
hunting is a mainstay of the regional and statewide recreational economy, by some estimates accounting for $2 billion worth of economic activity and 28,000 jobs, and rifle hunting has proven beneficial to local counties.]

But back to the Venison Donation Coalition. It’s a foundation supported by sportsmen’s organizations, of course, but also by corporations, government agencies, civic and religious groups, and individual citizens. I’m glad for this chance to call attention to its meaningful work. In government, particularly in an era like the current one defined by limited resources to address seemingly infinite demands, we’re always searching for ways to encourage individual citizens to
contribute to the overall quality of our communities.

It was 18 years ago when an area "Hunters for the Hungry" program was prepared to donate 400 pounds of venison for distribution to the needy and discovered that state law prevented them, and other similar groups operating in central and western New York, from doing so. The law in 1993
deemed it illegal to distribute, for public consumption, meat from animals that were not slaughtered under qualified supervision to ensure that the meat was safe to eat. As a result, “Hunters for the Hungry" programs operating throughout New York at that time were being told they couldn’t
donate over 10,000 pounds of venison to food banks and other organizations providing meals to the unemployed, shut-ins, senior citizens and other needy citizens.

It just didn't make any sense that hunters weren’t allowed to donate perfectly healthy, nutritionally sound food to those who needed and would appreciate such a good meal. So the Legislature quickly acted to establish a program to address the appropriate health concerns and allow the
donations to be made before the meat spoiled.

The venison donation program that resulted is now a broad-based partnership that includes a range of area supporters. It’s facilitated the donation of venison to food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens and additional not-for-profit organizations and charities that feed the poor. Sportsmen and sportswomen were provided the opportunity to demonstrate their concern for the state's neediest citizens, and their response has been overwhelming. Today the Venison Donation Coalition operates in most of the state’s 62 counties. Countless citizens have enjoyed nutritious
meals as a result. Since 1999, in fact, the Coalition has coordinated the processing of over 337 tons of venison -- equal to more than 2.7 million servings of highly nutritious, low- fat, high-protein meat.

It's an admirable effort. While it may not readily come to mind as a community development mainstay, it surely is. You can’t underestimate the spirit of commitment and giving it encourages. We will continue to develop infrastructure, promote tourism, improve schools, protect citizens, and do anything and everything possible to enhance our economic standing, but along with these fundamental responsibilities is a responsibility to the quality of life for everyone. That’s what’s important, appropriate and meaningful about the ongoing work of the Venison Donation Coalition.

For more information, visit the Coalition website at

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869