You may have heard of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources campaign “Target Hunger Now!” to help feed hungry families in Illinois. They have worked with sportsmen and meat processors to provide donated venison with much success. And now commercial fishermen and processors can be added to the list.
In March of 2011, the Illinois Department of Public Health approved Asian carp harvested from the Mississippi and lower Illinois Rivers for human consumption. Like most fish, Asian carp is rich in protein and protein is the single most expensive food source to provide to the less fortunate. Because it is so expensive, it also means that protein is the food source most lacking in diets of those who are most in need. With “Target Hunger Now!” as much as 40,000 pounds of fish can be processed daily, combine that with the donated venison in the Illinois food bank system and it equates to approximately 3.3 million protein-rich meals available free to those who are facing hunger in our communities.
This not only helps families in need, but also helps another problem. Asian carp have been spreading across Illinois rivers and streams, killing off native species. If you remember, keeping the fish out of the Great Lakes was a subject of much debate last summer. In fact, the O’Brien Lock and Chicago Lock were closed for a period of time to keep the fish out, which also meant additional time and money to get needed products to the Chicagoland area. By adding Asian carp to the “Target Hunger Now!” campaign, officials hope to create demand so that commercial fishing will reduce the carp’s numbers.
The state plans to promote Asian carp as a tasty food later this month with a cooking demonstration in Chicago. But if you can’t attend, there are many tasty recipes available for Asian carp and venison here.