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An NPR investigation raises concerns over lead shot in donated deer meat

River to River, hosted by Ben Kieffer

An NPR Midwest Newsroom journalist takes a look into a program that gets donated venison into food pantries. The investigation raises questions about the presence of lead shot in donated food and its impact on consumers.

Iowa hunters donate approximately 3,500 deer carcasses a year. Known as the Help US Stop Hunger, or HUSH, program the venison goes to food banks in the state providing a much-needed protein source, a seasonal option at a time when grocery budgets are under strain.

On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Samantha Horton about how minimal regulatory requirements around the program have raised some concerns from experts. We hear from a food pantry director, a food sanitation expert and a scientist who studies the prevalence of lead in programs like HUSH.


  • Samantha Horton, Fellow for NPR’s Midwest Newsroom
  • Kim Guardado, food reservoir director at Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP)
  • Angela Anandappa, executive director at Alliance for Advanced Sanitation
  • Given Harper, hunter and ecologist at Illinois Wesleyan University
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Zachary Oren Smith is a reporter covering Eastern Iowa