MCC photo/Brenda Burkholder

The 2016-17 canning crew is made up of (from left) Lucas Hiebert from Goessel, Kan.; Matthew Blosser from Goshen, Ind.; Claudio Regier from Neuland, Paraguay; and Carsten Wiebe from Neuland, Paraguay.

AKRON, Pa. – From October through March 2017 more than 30,000 volunteers for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) will fill more than half a million cans with meat for people in need overseas.

The volunteers team up with MCC’s mobile meat canning crew who travel to about 35 different locations across Canada and the U.S. to can turkey, beef, chicken and pork in MCC’s mobile cannery.

Joey Graber is one of these volunteers. The corn, soybean and cattle farmer from just outside of Freeman, S.D., has helped MCC can for more than 20 years, he says.

Graber has been on the receiving end of these food shipments, too. From 1985 to 1987 he volunteered with MCC in Haiti, where he saw food shipments arrive. On learning tours to Nicaragua and Honduras, Graber saw how effective these donations were in meeting the basic needs of impoverished, hungry people there.

“That’s why I do it. I know how beneficial it is,” Graber says. “It’s just as important to be on this side of it as it is to be on the other side distributing.”

The canned meat is distributed to people in Haiti, Ethiopia, Ukraine and other places where protein sources are difficult to purchase locally. In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) canned meat is distributed through our partners, Christian Friends of Korea.

Graber expects that he and the South Dakota-area volunteers will can at least 13,500 pounds of chicken between Nov. 14 and 15.

“It’s a great community-wide gathering,” he says. “It’s something people in the area have done since I was a kid.”

This year, the meat canning truck will make stops in the central and eastern U.S. and Ontario.

To see if the mobile meat-canner is coming to a place near you, check out