Venison that would have once graced the menus of the UK’s finest restaurants is being donated to charities to help families living in poverty.
The Country Food Trust (CFT) has secured 34 tonnes of wild venison to distribute to charities and food banks across the UK, amid a drop in demand from restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dishes including venison lasagne and shepherds pie are being given out from Wednesday, to coincide with food waste week.
Tim Woodward, CFT chief executive, said he is “delighted” to be helping distribute venison to families struggling during the pandemic.
He said: “In the current environment with hospitality closed, there is limited demand for venison and we are delighted to be using this delicious and low-fat protein to help those in food poverty.
“The Country Food Trust is about to donate its two-millionth meal to those in need and could not have done this without incredible support from its supporters and the countryside community.“
The CFT has received 2.5 tonnes of venison from Wild Robinson Foods in the Cotswolds, South Downs Venison, and Highland Game in Dundee.
This is being distributed via the Felix Project, a food redistribution charity, to food banks and charities in London.
Wild Robinson Foods founder Mike Robinson had been supplying restaurants with Ben Heath, deer stalker and co-owner of Deerbox, before the pandemic forced eateries to close their doors.
Mr Robinson, who part owns a Michelin-starred pub in Fulham, west London, said: “As the deer population was increasing, they were running out of food, so we knew we had to cull to keep the numbers down.
“And we don’t want this delicious healthy food to go to waste. In these unprecedented times, we are delighted to be able to help feed some of the poorest people in London via the Felix Project.”
During the pandemic, the Felix Project has delivered triple the usual amount of food and provided 21.1 million meals to 260,000 vulnerable people.
The charity started distributing the venison on Wednesday and Ringcross food bank in Holloway, north London, was one of the first recipients.
It received shepherd’s pies made from venison supplied by Highland Game and cooked by With Compassion, a group of chefs.
Prior to the pandemic, the food bank catered for 6-15 people a day. It now serves more than 170 meals a day.
Mark Curtin, chief executive of the Felix Project, said “We are so grateful for this supply of venison secured by the Countryside Food Trust.
“In fact, this epitomises what we are trying to do; prevent food waste and supply nutritious food to those who need it most.
“We are delighted that families across the capital who are struggling to get by will be able to savour these delicious, tasty meals.”