Mennonite Central Committee helps to feed the hungry

by Adam Gault

For nearly two decades, members and supporters of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) have come together once a year in Leamington to support their annual charitable event. Over the course of several days, tens of thousands of pounds of poultry is canned for distributed to communities in need across the world.

Through the tireless efforts of roughly 400 volunteers from local Mennonite, Lutheran, and other denominational communities, as well as guests from the United States, the MCC canned roughly 30,000 pounds of chicken into 12,000 cans at the Leamington Gleaners facility over a four-day period last week.

“The closer you can get to the generation that was hungry, the easier it is to find help,” Meat Canner Committee member Martin Rahn said of who is usually most eager to volunteer with the process. “In whatever Bible you’re reading, it says, you shall look after the hungry, you shall look after your fellow man, so we’ve had no issues getting help.”

Although this year’s destination for the canned chicken has not yet been decided, in past years, it has been received globally in places such as Russia, North Korea, Iraq, and even closer to home in Northern Ontario.

What sets MCC Canner Drive apart from other hunger relief and food bank operations, is that they cook and can all the selected meat from scratch. The MCC highlights the importance of choosing to can meat in its annual drive, as meat is a high source of protein, which is a missing component in many food relief programs around the world.

“Most people can find like a potato, or a bread, or rice,” Rahn said. “It’s the protein and the meat that is rare in earthquakes, or war-torn areas, and is usually one of the first things that falls off in the diet.”

As part of the canning process, the raw chicken is first weighed, then placed into individual 800-gram cans. It is then passed through an industrial pressure canner, which seals and cooks the turkey at around 245 degrees Fahrenheit for just shy of two-and-a-half hours. When the cans are finished, they are placed in water for a 10-minute cool down. Once they’ve cooled, the cans are then hand labeled and placed into boxes in anticipation of distribution.

More information on MCC Meat Canning can be found at

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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