More than 400 volunteers crowded the Elmira Produce Auction Cooperative this week, prepped with hairnets and lab coats, ready to pack more than 21,000 cans of turkey meat. The canned turkey will be used by Mennonite Central Committee throughout the coming year in response to any disasters or in countries threatened by hunger and food shortages.
When the earthquake struck Haiti earlier this year, for instance, one of the first ways that MCC responded was to send a shipment of canned meat similar to what was being packed in Elmira this week. Trevor Adams, material resources coordinator for MCC Ontario, estimates that more than 36,000 kilograms (80,000 pounds) of meat have already been shipped to Haiti.
MCC also sent meat to several other countries, including North Korea, where it was used in tuberculosis hospitals. TB has worsened there over the past 10 years because of chronic hunger issues.
“Malnutrition directly impacts the body’s ability to resist disease,” noted Adams. “MCC canned meat, combined with the medicine and rest that patients receive at the treatment facilities, greatly contributes to improved health.”
The mobile meat canner, with a crew of four men, has been on the road since October and has made stops in more than 30 communities across Canada and the U.S. The four-day Elmira stop brought together hundreds of volunteers to stir the cooking meat, pack it into cans and then wash and label the 795-gram containers.
“The strength of the project is that it’s mobile,” explained Adams. “It can go to several different communities and involve a lot of different volunteers.”
And this week’s efforts were only possible with the help of all the people involved, he added. Volunteers were called upon to debone, stir and pack the meat in cans, which also had to be washed and labeled.
Those interested in helping the effort can do so in a number of ways: by donating livestock, donating money, or coming out to the cannery itself and putting in some manual labour. A $3 donation covers the expense to fill one can of meat and a $72 donation will cover the cost for one complete carton of meat (24 cans). The canning unit can process 20 head of cattle in one day.
“Taking a shift at the meat canner is a small way people feel they can help make a practical difference,” he noted. “Everyone seemed to be on our side with this. Snyder’s Metal Fabrication donated steel barrels for us to keep the cans in – just little things like that have been so helpful.”