Five years ago, people from Lewis County came together to prepare food items to distribute to local pantries through a unique method.
The focus of this program was to can 14,000 pounds of meat. They used a mobile meat canner to slice the meat, store it in cans and cook it.
Members of the Mennonite Central Committee, an organization representing Anabaptist churches, oversee this program. They recruit volunteers to work with one of four canner operators at 34 sites throughout the United States and Canada. They prepare beef, chicken, pork and turkey.
The meat canner came to Maple Ridge Center, 7421 East Road in Lowville, in 2018 and 2019. It returned in 2022, preparing more than 16,000 pounds of meat in 9,794 cans.
The group has set a goal of canning at least 18,000 pounds of meat this year. Each time this program is done here, 10% of what is canned is reserved for use at local food pantries.
The Mennonite Central Committee will need enough volunteers from Lewis County to fill more than 300 positions this year. The meat canner will be at Maple Ridge Center from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. April 13 and 14.
“With the help of the Northern New York Community Foundation and generous do-nations from churches throughout New York state, individuals and businesses, the Meat Canner of Lewis County raised the funds necessary for the canner this year,” according to a news release from the committee. “The next step is to sign up the volunteers needed to run the canning operation. It needs people for all types of work from chunking chicken, weighing and measuring to wiping and labeling cans.”
This is a well-run operation. Committee members plan every stage of work, from set-up to canning and cleanup. According to the MCC Meat Canner of Lewis Coun-ty website, here is the process:
After the canner arrives at a site, volunteers cut or grind the meat into roughly 1-inch chunks. Each can to be used is cleaned, and salt is then added. The meat for each can is measured for a specific weight.
The cans are then brought to another section of the trailer. A machine places lids on the cans and seals them. Another machine pressure cooks the cans for hours.
Volunteers remove the cans and dry them; additional people place labels on the cans. The cans are then run through a scanner, which notes information on each can such as the date, the meat’s expiration date and the location code. Finally, the cans are boxed for shipping.
In addition to preparing the meat, volunteers help tie comforters and pack hygiene kits for people around the world who have been affected by natural disasters. This work will be done locally in the Manor House at Maple Ridge.
The Mennonite Central Committee has been carrying on this vital work for dec-ades. The idea to assist wartime refugees began in 1946 with people of the Men-nonite faith preparing meat in their homes.
But many of the glass jars they used broke while being shipped, so a wagon with meat-canning equipment was purchased.
This was eventually donated to the MCC in 1952.
Food insecurity remains a serious problem, including in the north country. Helping the Mennonite Central Committee prepare these items will bring needed relief to many residents. Visit the MCC Meat Canner of Lewis County website at wdt.me/eX2SPr for more information and to sign up as a volunteer.
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