A deer management group in South Lanarkshire has teamed with a church in East Kilbride to provide fresh local venison for Christmas dinner to around 100 food bank users.
The South Lanarkshire Deer Group, members of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, made contact with Calderwood Baptist Church, asking how the local deer resource might be used to benefit those in need.
Now they are to prepare food parcels of venison steaks, sausages and burgers as part of the festive food hampers handed out to 80-100 individuals and families on 23rd December.
Calderwood Baptist Church co-ordinates the East Kilbride Community Food Bank, a partnership of churches which provides between 450 and 500 food parcels per month across East Kilbride.
As part of a wide-ranging community care programme, the Maxwellton Road church also offers debt management, job clubs and training as well as helping families with household goods.
The Christmas venison, supplied with cooking instructions, will come from the area around the Whitelee Forest, which is leased to the group from Forestry Commission Scotland and also houses Britain’s largest onshore wind farm.
Highly trained deer managers from the South Lanarkshire Deer Group control numbers on the ground and its fringes whilst maintaining a balance of healthy roe deer in the area.
After becoming aware of the work of the church and food bank, they wanted to play their part to help at a time when some families may be stretched by the pressures of Christmas.
David Quarrell, Chairman of the group, said: “We knew about the work of the church. My daughter gives to the local food bank and the lads in the group wanted to do something which might help.
“The venison comes off public land, locally. It is a sustainable resource and there are no food miles. We wanted it to be going back into the community and, aside from being charitable, we feel the more people get a chance to try it, the better. Thanks to the Forestry Commission leasing us the ground, we can use the venison in a way that might help people, locally. With the right infrastructure, it is something that could be done in many areas.”
The group initially volunteered to provide a cooked venison meal for the church’s Christmas event on 18th December but the more traditional turkey had already been ordered.
Instead, after church officials enjoyed some ‘tasting’, it was decided that it would form the fresh food offering for the seasonal hampers, given out 2 days before Christmas.
Lead Pastor, Rev. John MacKinnon of Calderwood Baptist Church said: “We feel this could be the beginning of a very positive relationship.
“When we started providing food parcels to people in our own locale, as part of our community care, we discovered very quickly there was actually a real need for it all over the town. Our aim has always been not just to prop up the problem but to address the root of it, hence the other support that we give people.
“What David and the lads are doing is a super thing. We give food parcels to regular users of the food bank, to keep them going over Christmas time and it will be great to see something of such quality going into the parcels this year.”
The project has been supported by local MSP for East Kilbride, Linda Fabiani, who backs local resources being used to benefit communities.