WILLISTON, N.D. — A social services agency is struggling to distribute needed protein to food pantries in Williston because of the lack of licensed processors in the area.

The Community Action Partnership of North Dakota created the Sportsmen Against Hunger program as pantry items reached critical lows at the local Salvation Army, the Williston Herald (http://bit.ly/2cPrwgC) reported. The organization pays for the processing of a filled tag in exchange for a meat donation.

Williston Community Action Partnership client services director Deeann Long says the program gained traction until harsh winters wiped out the deer population. Activity and participation was minimal by 2014.

Western North Dakota became a processing desert after the absence of deer drove processors in the region to close. The program’s growth has been stalled because of the lack of certified processors.

“It has to come from a butcher or processor so we know it’s been through safety regulations,” said Kristin Oxendahl, community enhancement director for the Salvation Army. “Right now they are short on food, and there is a shortage of protein sources. Their clientele was always grateful for it.”

The program limits donations to goose and venison. But Williston Salvation Army Captain Marion Moore says that if the meat is from a licensed processor, the food pantry isn’t likely to turn it away.

“If it’s something common to the region, we would be happy to get it into our pantry and give to those that need it,” Moore said. “As long as it comes from a USDA licensed processor, we’re glad to receive the donations and so do the locals.”

Information from: Williston Herald, http://www.willistonherald.com