This article was originally published by The Mennonite

MCC meat canning feeds people in Ukraine and beyond

Ukraine is an MCC country of sensitivity. While this photo has been vetted and may be used without further checking, please consult the MCC content and vetting policy guidelines when communicating about countries of sensitivity in general.

Photo: Yulia Gurzhiy and her children, clockwise, Rostislav, 9; Veronika, 8; Alexey 2, Aleksandra, 4; and Viktoria, 11, stand in their apartment in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. The Gurzhiy family receives MCC humanitarian assistance from MCC partner Association of Mennonite Brethren Churches of Ukraine (AMBCU).  MCC photo/Colin Vandenberg 

The children come and go from the kitchen at the Gurzhiy household in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. The attraction is pizza, made for 8-year-old Veronika’s birthday party.

“We got some canned meat last week,” says Veronika’s mom, Yulia Gurzhiy. “We used it to make this pizza today and it’s very good.”

The family – mother, father and seven children at home – receive canned meat through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)’s partner Association of Mennonite Brethren Churches of Ukraine (AMBCU).

The meat has been canned by 30,000 volunteers in Canada and the United States who team up each year with MCC’s mobile meat canning crew to preserve turkey, beef, chicken and pork in MCC’s mobile cannery. This year’s canning season begins Oct. 9 and ends May 3, 2018.

Canned meat is shipped to countries where people are living through various crises. From April 2016 through March 2017, MCC sent 637,896 cans to locations all around the world, including Burundi, Ethiopia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Lebanon and Nicaragua, as well as Canada and the U.S.

MCC has provided canned meat to Ukraine for decades to support people suffering from HIV and AIDS and to sustain elderly people or those addicted to drugs. Since 2014, people fleeing conflict in the eastern part of the country have been among Ukraine’s primary recipients.

In the Gurzhiy household, meat is especially valuable because one of the children has cerebral palsy, and the costs for her care, along with food, rent and utilities exceeds the family’s income. Sergey Panasovich, the AMBCU coordinator, says the meat is a healthy addition to the family’s diet.

“There is no price that will get you this quality of canned meat here in Ukraine,” he says. “It just doesn’t exist.”

Beneficiaries in Ukraine are chosen by their need, focusing especially on large families, single parent families, and

2017 canner operators, left to right, Michael Doerksen from Filadelfia, Paraguay; Carsten Wiebe from Neuland, Paraguay; and Lucas Hiebert from Goessel, Kansas

disabled and elderly people. A single can of meat mixed with everything from pasta to porridge can feed a family of up to 10 for a day, some beneficiaries say.

This year the mobile cannery will make stops at 32 locations in central and eastern U.S. and Ontario. To learn more about the whole canning process and to see if the mobile cannery is coming to a place near you, visit

The 2017-2018 canner operators this year include Michael Doerksen, from Filadelfia, Paraguay; Lucas Hiebert, from Goessel, Kansas; and Carsten Wiebe, from Neuland, Paraguay. Matthew Blosser from Goshen, Indiana, is helping temporarily.

MCC has an urgent need for a fourth canner to join the team for a two-year term. To apply or to learn more about the position, visit and put in the keyword “canner.”

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