Together, we can!

White tractor trailer truck with modified trailer attached
The history

MCC’s mobile meat canner is a legendary piece of equipment in the MCC world and to each of the nearly 30,000 volunteers who work with it across the US and Canada every year. In fact, it doesn’t do it justice to merely call it a piece of equipment; it is, in both a broader and literal sense, a movement. “It’s really cool to see the variety of folks coming out to can meat,” says Jon Lebold, Material Resources Coordinator for MCC in Ontario. “It also speaks to the commitment from our local canning committees over the years in rallying the volunteers, sourcing the meat, the logistics - there’s a lot of work that goes into it, but people love to do it.”

Since 1945 when the world’s first and only mobile meat canner was created by the Shenandoa Equipment Company for MCC, the excitement for, engagement with, and production of the canner has only grown.

The last number of years, MCC has shipped over 600,000 pounds of meat every year to hundreds of thousands of hungry people in emergency need around the world. 

A man walking between two ruined buildings
In this photo taken in June 2020, a man (name withheld for privacy) walks in a destroyed area of Aleppo, Syria, holding a bag of bread which is a basic need for people to live.
MCC photo/Petra Antoun
The impact

In Tartous, a city on the coast of Syria, a father of six tells how his family fled from rocket fire in Aleppo. Uprooted from home, he struggled to earn enough to support his family and eventually took two daughters out of school so they could work. “Our goal is to get bread, basic materials and some beans,” he says, “but regarding meat or chicken and fish, my children forgot their taste a long time ago, and they became pictures that they only see on restaurant signs.” His eyes fill with tears as he meets with MCC partner staff. “Thank you from the depth of the heart for giving us the cans of cooked chicken,” he says. “We have been able to cook them in many ways, you have brought joy to the hearts of children.... Look at them, how happy they are!”

The challenges

Although historically the canner has made stops in Leamington and Elmira, operating the cannery in Ontario has met with challenges. Due to strict border regulations, it has become increasingly difficult to cross the U.S./Canada border with the US-based cannery and crew. The mobile cannery, being the only one of its kind, has also faced numerous challenges to meet Canadian Food Inspection Agency standards. The COVID-19 pandemic magnified these issues. This resulted in canceling the Canadian canning season for three years, and ultimately no canned meat from Canada since 2019.

Even while our production has dropped, our partners’ requests for canned meat have increased due to more disasters, rising insecurity and escalating food costs. In disaster situations, our partners find it difficult to source local meat to respond to emergency food needs. Without a supply of canned meat, MCC in Canada’s response is very limited. The ongoing reality is that the need and requests for canned meat far exceed the MCC system’s capacity to produce it.


Solution: together, we can!

After much planning, consulting, and thoughtful preparation, the solution is obvious: to set up a stationary, permanent canning facility in Ontario! This cannery will be built, maintained and sustained by MCC Ontario’s Material Resources Program in New Hamburg at the MR warehouse. The resulting cans of food will be distributed through the MCC network to meet food needs locally and around the world.

“We’re excited for the potential here,” reflects Jon Lebold. “We’ve got the space, we’ve got the logistical efficiencies for shipping, and when we can scale the canning operation in this way, the impact will be huge.”

The advantages of this stationary cannery will be many. MCC Ontario will have the ability to can meat year-round, even during times of uncertainty, such as pandemics or Canada/U.S. border closures. MCC will then be in a better position to respond to partner requests for meat. This improves our credibility with partners and increases our capacity to help alleviate emergency food needs. Meat canning is also a popular and accessible community engagement activity, bringing in a wide diversity of volunteers. And finally, we will explore canning of other products (e.g., vegetables) as time and materials allow – which will contribute to increased food availability to places and partners with food insecurity.

The initial startup cost of the new stationary cannery will be $750,000 and estimated yearly expenses to run it will be around $407,000 (including renting space at warehouse, staffing, cost of meat, supplies, and maintenance). With these investments in place, the cost per can goes down dramatically as operating the cannery in Ontario for a full year is only $150,000 more than operating it for only two weeks while production will increase many times.

With your help, this new stationary cannery will feed thousands more hungry people a year. The nutrient-dense and delicious gift gives more than calories and protein. It brings a sense of abundance to mealtime and hope for hungry women, children and men. Join us in this important work - to bring God’s love to all in a tangible and powerful way!

To support meat canning, donate today. Together, we can!