The Mennonite Central Committee’s mobile meat canner will be making its way to Elmira next week, an annual hands-on example of the organization’s charitable efforts.
Hundreds are expected to take part when the canner arrives at the Elmira Produce Auction Co-operative’s location on Reid Woods Drive, where volunteers will grind or cut the meat, heat it to the appropriate temperature, and fit it in cans. It will go to feeding the hungry across the globe, particularly in areas where it is harder to purchase meat.
“It’s essentially a factory on wheels,” explained MCC’s Sherilyn Bruggeling of the canning operation. “This year, we’re doing chicken. None of [the meat] is sold, it’s all donated.”
Last year, the MCC shipped some 774,000 cans of turkey, beef, chicken, and pork to people whose regular food systems had been disrupted by drought, conflict or natural disaster. To achieve that feat, a core team of experts travelled with the mobile meat cannery to 35 locations across Canada and the United States.
Countries that benefitted from the canned meats have included Burundi, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Nicaragua, North Korea and Ukraine.
The executive director of MCC Ontario, John Head, visited last year’s canning week in Elmira.
“Having just celebrated National Volunteer Appreciation Week, the blessing of our volunteers was fresh in my mind. It’s so inspiring to see all these people coming out at the break of dawn and working long shifts, all to help people they’ve never met,” said Head.
“The impact for those who receive this food is enormous, but it’s also a real benefit right here in Ontario when so many people come together for a common goal – there’s a real sense of community and generosity that is wonderful to see.”
The canned meat makes a difference in the lives of recipients, the organization notes. In North Korea, for instance, the donated meat was used to supplement the diet of patients at three children’s hospitals. It was served as part of a soup, along with vegetables. The juice from the cans was used to flavour the soup, while the meat provided an easily digestible form of protein for the children. MCC was told that the meat contributed to a faster illness-recovery rate and better weight gain for young patients.
“It’s definitely a unique experience,” said Bruggeling. “That being said, we’re not going to need any additional volunteers. I would more encourage people to support the meat canning and donate towards the cost of the meat.”
The canning event will take place April 22 to 26.