Since MCC began, sharing God's love and compassion for all has included helping to ensure that people have the food they need to grow and thrive.
Through these images, we invite you to take a trip through decades and across the globe to experience the difference that preserving has made for families and communities involved in MCC projects.
Home-canned gifts from gardens in the U.S. and Canada
Canning and preserving techniques extend the gifts of a growing season. They provide a durable gift of food that can cross continents to help families in need.
During World War II, Mennonites and Mennonite Brethren provided food, including jars of home-canned produce from family farms and gardens, to Civilian Public Service camps in the U.S., where Anabaptists and other conscientious objectors were doing alternative service.
That transitioned to efforts to provide home-canned items, including jars such as these, to European communities in need after World War II. Here, a woman in Germany (name and exact location not known) unpacks glass jars in 1947 or 1948.
Providing nutrition for European families reeling from war
MCC contributed all of the food supplies that a volunteer (name not known) in Bremen, Germany, is packing into a food box for a family in 1947 or 1948.
In Germany in 1947, 43 workers were responsible for distributing 4,538 tons of food, clothing and other items, supplies that were vitally needed as families struggled to recover from the costs of years of war. In the summer of 1947, MCC feeding operations were reaching approximately 80,000 people.
A meat canning tradition begins
The tradition of canning meat for MCC to send to communities in need dates back to the 1940s, when cans of meat such as this began providing valuable protein in Europe. Read more about MCC meat canning.
Here, a representative (name not known) of the Evangelisches Hilfswerk, the German Protestant relief organization, inspects beef canned by Bethel Church in Wadsworth, Ohio. Meat canning efforts were facilitated by Mennonites in Ohio, and the meat reached Europe in March 1947.
Teaching canning techniques in Greece
Canning gives farmers new ways to save their harvests, diversify their diets and improve nutrition for their families throughout the year.
In Greece in the 1950s, workers in MCC's Pax program partnered with Greek communities in improving farming practices and encouraging families to preserve meat, fruit and vegetables for winter use. Here, Richard Lambright (second from left) of Lagrange, Indiana, teaches canning techniques at the MCC cannery in Tsakones, Greece, in 1956 or 1957.
Helping refugees and others for years to come
In Vienna, Austria, in 1959, MCC worker Susan Wenger gives food to a refugee (name not known). MCC distributed food parcels, including canned meat, in Vienna.
Vienna also was the base for a relief package distribution to countries behind the Iron Curtain in 1959 with 221 packages sent to Hungary, 111 to Poland and 95 to Yugoslavia. Twenty-eight packages remained within Austria. Clothing was distributed six times during the year in Vienna, and three food distributions were held.
Promoting alternative ways of preserving crops
Canning is only one way of preserving the food a farmer has grown.
In places from Bangladesh to Bolivia, MCC workers strived to develop simple, sustainable technologies that farmers could use to improve their lives in many areas, including food preservation.
This is the first solar dryer that Stuart Clark built while he was in language training in Bangladesh. With the wood frame and glass windows, it was expensive but served to prove that the concept could work. Clark, a short-term worker with the New Zealand Baptist Mission Society, was invited to Bangladesh by a former MCC worker, Harley Snider with Caritas Bangladesh, to explore ways women could earn income from home after diesel rice mills had taken over the task of husking rice. After a presentation on his four months of early work, he was invited to join the MCC team in Bangladesh to continue work on finding ways to dry food, including the new vegetables that MCC was promoting.
Experimenting with designs
To investigate ways to make food dryers very inexpensively in Bangladesh, MCC worker Stuart Clark remembers hiring a Bangladesh food technologist to work with local leaders. The technologist set up a demonstration site near a market in a small village and began trying different designs. The triangular mud dryer, shown here in 1979, was one of the first.
Eventually, Clark remembers, a dryer was developed based on the standard building material of woven bamboo, "dry cell battery contents mixed with kerosene for black paint and common polyethylene film for a cover. This became the design that was promoted and is still used in parts of that district, mostly for drying grated coconut which has a good market," Clark notes.
Solar dryer technology in Vietnam
In 1981, while Stuart Clark was sharing solar dryer technology with MCC partner United Mission to Nepal, he was asked by MCC to go to Vietnam, where there was interest in solar food dryers for industrial shrimp chip making.
"This was a different scale of technology than I had used earlier so I contacted the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok about a larger scale design they had developed," Clark remembers. "It was this design that I taught to the scientists at the Vietnam Science Institute in Ho Chi Minh City." This 1983 photo shows a dryer built at a factory in the Mekong Delta that was capable of drying 200 pounds (100 kilograms) of food.
Saving fruit from spoiling in Haiti
In rural Mombin Crochu, Haiti, pineapple, passion fruit, grapefruit, cherries, mango, papaya and other fruits are plentiful. But reliable roads are not. Roads are too rough for local buses to come regularly and many families don't have funds to pay for motorcycle transport, so it's impossible to sell this abundant harvest in a city market before it spoils. Fruit beyond what a family can eat ripens and rots.
In response, MCC partner Partenariat pour le Développement Local (PDL) in 2014 held canning workshops, giving Emilienne Antenor Donice, shown scooping pineapple jam, and other community leaders ways to preserve their harvest until they can get it to a market to sell. Instead of holding a single canning workshop for one community, PDL chose to bring leaders from multiple partner organizations together to learn canning principles and think about how they can use this with their own organizations.
Processing nuts, testing products
As part of the same project, PDL in 2015 provided a workshop in Mombin Crochu on processing cashew nuts into spreads to sell in urban markets.
In addition, PDL took products from these initial workshops to sell in Port-au-Prince, getting consumers' reflections on factors such as quality, taste and packaging – one more way to give those who tend crops and care for trees a better chance to benefit from the fruits of their labors.
Preparing for winter in Afghanistan
Squash, harvested from a kitchen garden in Central Highlands, Afghanistan, is sliced and dried in 2018.
The area, at this time, had the country's highest rates of stunting and chronic malnutrition and was experiencing a devastating drought. Participants in this MCC-supported project were taught how to preserve crops for the winter, and to store their own seeds for replanting in the spring.
New opportunities for income in Syria
In 2019, Nareman Haddad prepares mouneh, traditional preserves made from seasonally available foods. Here, Haddad is preserving olives, adding some carrots, herbs and water, then a few drops of olive oil.
Through MCC partner Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue, Haddad took part in a five-day training to learn how to make mouneh, as well as how to calculate profits and losses and how to market and sell her product.
Because of years of war, wages in Syria are low compared to the cost of living. Selling mouneh allows Hadded to help her husband support the family, while staying home with their children. Learn more through a video.
Raising support for MCC's work around the world
Over the years, homemade preserves and jars of honey have been sold at MCC relief sales, raising money for MCC's work around the world.
This photo from the 2013 Southern California Festival and Sale for World Relief in May in Upland, California, shows preserves from Ruth Buxman of Dinuba, California, and orange blossom honey from Les and Dorothy Guengerich, who shared honey from their citrus groves in California's Central Valley.
A continuing tradition
Preserving continues to play a role in the work of MCC, whether in improving nutrition for families or helping to boost income for farmers. It even made a quick appearance in MCC's COVID-19 response in Cambodia. In 2020, as MCC Cambodia partnered with 11 local churches to distribute food relief to families suffering from lockdowns, Ringsey Rath, MCC accountant and partner auditor, pickled and packaged 22 pounds (10 kilograms) of vegetables to include in the food packages.
Inspired to do your own canning? Check out this Simply in Season recipe for rhubarb strawberry jam. (Simply in Season was commissioned by MCC and published by Herald Press. Purchase copies of the tenth anniversary edition at mennomedia.org.)
Rhubarb Strawberry Jam
Yields 7-8 half-pints/2L
6 cups/1.5 L rhubarb (diced)
2 cups/500 ml strawberries (mashed lightly)
Bring to boil in large saucepan with heavy bottom.
3-4 cups/750 ml-1 L sugar
Add and boil uncovered 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Pour into hot sterile jars to within half inch/1 cm of top. Seal with sterile lids and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes.