Officials say “zombie” deer are not affecting Greater Lansing Food Bank

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Meridian Township officials and food bank directors said deer infected by chronic wasting disease is not being donated to food banks as venison.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the chronic wasting disease is a contagious, neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. It causes a degeneration of the brain resulting in exceptionally thin, abnormal behaviour, loss of bodily functions and death. There is a popular name for the infected animals: zombie deer. 

Meridian Township is in a management zone where there is a chance the deer still have the disease because it was found there before.

Kelsey Dillon, Park Naturalist and Stewardship Coordinator in Meridian Township’s Parks and Recreation Department, said part of venison donations to food banks comes from hunters who are members of the Meridian Township Deer Management Program. This year they had 82 hunters in the program.

Dillon said the deer are being sent to labs that test for chronic wasting disease after hunters kill them.  

Click below to see the interview.

The director of operations in Greater Lansing Food Bank, Kim Harkness, said they didn’t see a lot of decrease in their venison donation because they rely on meat from multiple regions. She also said venison is just a small part of their donations.

According to the Food Bank Council of Michigan and Greater Lansing Food Bank, there is a total of 69 agencies in Ingham county supported by Greater Lansing Food Bank, covering pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, residential, senior, rehab, youth and multi-services.  

Click below listen to the audio interview with Harkness.

MSU Student Food Bank is one of its agencies. Nicole Edmonds, the director of MSU Student Food Bank, said they are not affected by chronic wasting disease because they don’t provide venison.