Mobile meat canner makes annual stop at MCC Material Resource Center Harleysville

Volunteers, from left, Beth Taylor, Bill Wolfgang and Jim Whiteman can pork March 24 in the Mennonite Central Committee’s mobile meat canner at the MCC Material Resource Center in Harleysville.

FRANCONIA >> When the canned meat leaves the Mennonite Central Committee Material Resource Center in Harleysville, it goes to a warehouse in Ephrata.

“From there, it gets shipped to places around the world in need,” said Richard Godshall, one of the organizers for the local meat canning, which this year was March 24, 25, 27 and 28.

“During last year’s canning season, MCC and over 30,000 volunteers, produced over half a million cans of meat, much of which were sent to Burkina Faso, Canada, Ethiopia, Haiti, North Korea, Uganda, Ukraine, the USA, and Zambia,” canner information says.

The local stop was the 30th of 35 for this year’s mobile canner season, which started in Sterling, Ohio, in October and ends in April in Elmira, Ontario, Canada, canner information says.

This year’s schedule of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Monday and Tuesday, March 24, 27 and 28, and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 25, spread out the work a little bit longer than in previous years, but by adding Saturday, gave a chance for some people who couldn’t volunteer before because of work or school to now volunteer, Godshall said.

About 24,300 pounds of meat were planned to be canned in the local stop, he said. That’s less than the around 30,000 pounds canned last year, but the expected 15,000 cans this year is the same as last year, he said. The difference in the weight is because MCC decided to reduce the previous 28 ounces per can to 24 ounces in order to reduce the number of dented or damaged cans in the cooking process, he said.

“It seems to be working out a lot better with a little less meat,” Godshall said the first morning.

About 100 volunteers are needed each day for the local canner, he said.

Many are from local Mennonite or Brethren churches, with additional volunteers from the community, he said.

“We have a lot of the same folks every year that help out,” Godshall said. “We’re always grateful that people are willing to serve.”

Glenn Moyer, one of the volunteers, said he’s been helping with the canner since “when it was still down at Christopher Dock.” The canning was done at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, now Dock Mennonite Academy, before moving to the Material Resource Center in 2011.

“I used to take off work and come down,” Moyer, of Souderton, said. “I had a job where I was able to do that.”

He is now retired, he said.

Asked why he does it, Moyer said, “There was a need for it and I like the cause.”

“We’re so blessed around here,” he said.

“We want to share what we have,” Moyer said, adding there are “a lot of people in need in the world.”

The meat is “shared in the wake of droughts, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, famine, war, extreme poverty, and other emergency situations,” canner information says.

Last year’s meat shipments included ones to supplement the diets of the almost 300,000 refugees from South Sudan living in camps in the Gambella region of Ethiopia, canner information says. It says 72 percent of those refugees are children, 20 percent women and 8 percent men.

All the meat canned at the local stop is pork, Godshall said.

“It comes to us pre-ground and boxed and ready to be put in the cans,” he said.

This year’s price for the meat from Clemens Food Group was $1.05 per pound, he said.

“We’re always appreciative that they’re willing to give us a discount on that,” Godshall said.

The total costs for the local stop are about $45,000, he said. In addition to the meat, other costs include the cans, which are 75 cents each, as well as items such as boxes, labels and glue, he said.

Tax-deductible donations to help with the costs may be made payable to “MCC Canner Project” and mailed to MCC Material Resource Center, 737 Hagey Center Drive, Unit C, Souderton, PA 18964.

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