October 24, 2021

Around 750 volunteers gathered alongside the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Elmira from April 22 to 26 to prepare cans of meat to send around the world in order to feed people in hunger.

Every year MCC’s mobile meat cannery is used to prepare cans of turkey, beef, chicken and pork, with more than 30,000 people volunteering annually to fill, weigh, wash and label the cans in order to support a good cause.

The MCC meat cannery began operation in 1946 in response to scarce food resources following the Second World War. The meat canning process began in Elmira in the late 1990s.

Volunteers apply labels to canned meat. Photo by Anthony J. Seimens, MCC.

Last year alone, there were 774,067 pounds of canned meat shipped to Burkina Faso, North Korea, Haiti, Lebanon, Zambia, Ukraine, Canada and the United States.

“MCC ships canned meat to areas where regular food systems have been disrupted by conflict, drought or natural disaster. The canned meat provides an important source of protein for people who need it. This year in Elmira we are canning chicken,” said Shannon Bruggeling, communications and event coordinator for MCC. “In North Korea where meat is scarce, MCC shares canned meat with our partners to supplement meals for children as well as patients with tuberculosis or hepatitis.”

To meet the ever-growing need of hunger, MCC’s mobile cannery travels with a core team of expert volunteers to different locations across Canada and the U.S. At each meat canning location, thousands of volunteers show up to help with the labour-intensive process.

“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 John Head, executive director of MCC Ontario in a press release. “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 organization strives to make a difference in the lives of the recipients of the canned food. For instance, in North Korea, the donated meat is used to supplement the diet of patients at three children’s hospitals. It is served as part of a soup, along with vegetables. MCC was told that the meat contributed to a faster illness-recovery rate and better weight gain for young patients.

Donations to the MCC can be made by calling their office at 519-745-8458 or online at MCCO.ca.

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