Canners begin the 2008-2009 season

By Cathryn Clinton **

AKRON, Pa. ­ Mennonite Center Committee’s (MCC) four-person canning crew hits the road this month for its annual meat canning effort.

Between October and the end of April the mobile meat canner will visit 13 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.  This effort includes thousands of volunteers and produces more than half a million cans of meat.

Members of this year’s canning crew are Steven Bricker of Chambersburg, Pa.; Josh Voth of Goessel, Kan.; Peter Reimer of Tolstoi, Man.; and Viktor Schwendich of Huenfeld, Germany.

Last season yielded more than 550,000 cans of meat that MCC shipped to more than 20 different countries.  This meat was used for emergency relief and in communities impacted by war and disaster.

Canned meat provides a substantial protein source to people who are poor or on the brink of poverty. Ten to 15 people can be fed with one can.

This year, supplies of canned meat will be distributed in four orphanages in North Korea. Approximately 1,700 children will benefit because of improved nutritional needs and energy levels.

Local communities begin working months before the canner arrives.  The communities raise funds to cover the cost of canning which can run as much as $15,000 a day.  The MCC crew works in shifts overseeing canning operations from early morning until night.  Volunteers provide the bulk of the labor on canning days.

“Every time you work with volunteers it’s a different experience. I worked with MDS before. This (canning) will challenge my leadership skills,” Peter Reimer, MCC crew member said.

Tim Friesen, canning coordinator, says that because the cost of food and distribution is going up around the globe,” it is important for the church to continue to support food related programs.”

The canning tradition dates back to 1946. “Historically, even through times of economic difficulty, the production of the meat canner has stayed strong, and we hope that it will stay strong nationally and internationally,” says Friesen.

When Josh Voth, MCC crew member, looks back at his experience last year, he says that working as a meat canner strengthened his faith and patience. “Keeping up people’s morale, and seeing things work out when equipment malfunctions and breaks takes a belief that God will provide.”

Each year, MCC seeks people to serve on the mobile meat canner.  Canning crew members serve two-year terms, spending seven months on the road with the canner and working in Akron, Pa., the other five months of the year.  To learn more, visit

** Cathryn Clinton is a writer for Mennonite Central Committee.