The history of the Mennonite mobile meat cannery began in 1946, when hungry Europeans needed high protein food relief. Today, MCC distributes over 500,000 28-oz cans of meat worldwide each year, all produced by volunteer workers at the 33 stops the mobile cannery makes in 13 states and 2 Canadian provinces. Four volunteer canner operators spend overlapping 2 year terms driving the canner to the sites and working with local volunteers to produce the canned meat. We met operator George Wieler, who was on duty the day we were there.
|Chunking turkey prior to canning|
|Canned and ready to go|
- Raise the funds needed to rent the canner and to purchase the meat and supplies
- Arrange for food to feed the workers
- Arrange all the other accompanying activities, such as collecting donated soap and tying 33 comforters that groups had pieced earlier
- Recruit and schedule all the volunteers
Who were all those volunteers? When we were there, many were different groups of Amish who had hired vans and drivers to bring them to Spartansburg. Others were Mennonites, either from this church or others in western Pennsylvania or nearby areas of New York or Ohio. Volunteers traveled from as much as 1-2 hours away.
Is the meat cannery cost-effective? We believe the answer is yes. As far as we could tell, the per can cost to the local organizing committees of this MCC meat approximates wholesale prices. Therefore, you might think MCC should just buy cans of meat to ship to those in need. However, could as much money be raised simply to purchase relief supplies? No. People donate both money and volunteer hours partly because their donation includes the direct hands-on experience of caring for other people in need.
Folks at the Spartansburg site and the Mennonite Central Committee impressed us with their clarity of purpose: “The meat cannery allows my hands to better the lives of others around the world.” “You show love through taking care of other people.” “Our number 1 priority is to serve God, and this is a special way to do that.”
Or, as their label says, “Food for relief in the name of Christ.”