MCC canned meat: a ‘skilled traveler’

Dorothy Amoit eats a meal made with MCC canned turkey at Loreto Rumbek School in South Sudan. — Christy Kauffmann/MCC Dorothy Amoit eats a meal made with MCC canned turkey at Loreto Rumbek School in South Sudan. — Christy Kauffmann/MCC

The mobile meat cannery of Mennonite Central Committee has begun rolling through the United States so that volunteers can provide protein sources for people living through crises around the world.

On Sept. 27 in Ephrata, Pa., volunteers and staff of the Material Resources Center and operators of the mobile cannery participated in a dedication service opening the 2023-24 meat canning season.

In the 2022-23 season, volunteers canned 525,562 cans of turkey, beef, chicken and pork for MCC’s local and international programs. MCC hopes to produce even more of the highly sought-after meat this coming season.

Caleb Moss of Rock City, Ill.; Sylvan Stoltzfus of Narvon, Pa.; Andrew ­Widrick of Copenhagen, N.Y.; and Emery Yoder of Wilmot, Ohio, make up this year’s canning crew. They will oversee the canning operation and work alongside volunteers in 29 locations. Thousands will assist in filling, weighing, washing and labeling every can. Each one bears the label “Food for Relief, In the name of Christ.”

Last year, MCC distributed 383,040 cans of meat to Cuba, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Haiti, Malawi, South Sudan, Ukraine, Zambia and the U.S., including Puerto Rico. MCC and local partners allocate cans to families, many of whom are displaced from their homes because of war or other crises.

In Ethiopian refugee camps, many children are malnourished due to insufficient food sources. Last year, canned meat from MCC bolstered the diets of 6,000 children under the age of two in the camps.

Joe Miller, canning relations coordinator for MCC U.S., called MCC canned meat a “skilled cross-cultural traveler” because it takes on the flavor of each receiving community.

In the Ethiopian refugee camps, people from South Sudan will combine the meat with asida. In Ukraine, the canned meat may become part of a borscht. In Cuba, it can be paired with rice, beans and fried plantains to make ropa vieja. Some recipients save the meat’s broth to fortify the next day’s meal of beans and rice.

MCC continues to receive requests from additional communities to ex­pand the mobile cannery’s number of stops. This year, the crew will stop at a new location in Hagerstown, Ind., where primarily Old Order Amish will work the cannery.

Another development this year is the groundbreaking for a new stationary meat cannery in New Hamburg, Ont. It has been a challenge for the mobile cannery to cross the U.S.-Canada border. The stationary meat cannery will allow meat to be produced by volunteers from across Canada. Then the meat will be shipped directly from Canada to its destination.

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!