The first full week in January will be a giant cook-off in Iowa, but the products of the work will be sent away. John Yoder chairs the Iowa phase of the annual Mennonite Central Committee meat-canning project, to put up food for the needy. They will cook and can 22-thousand pounds of turkey in three days, and the MCC will distribute it around the world where food is needed. MCC, a religious organization with a big charitable mission, sends a portable canning kitchen around the country every year, driven by volunteers with the Mennonite Central Committee. An implement business donates facilities, MCC brings in the canner with qualified operators, and the local organizers provide turkey, buying it through a local Hy-Vee grocery store from West Liberty Turkey Processing Co-op. The canner will be in town and the volunteers will be cooking up a storm from January 8th through the tenth. Volunteers will grind the meat and put it in cans, and after its steam-cooked and washed, it’ll be labeled and put in boxes. Yoder says during the three-day process, the site will be a federally-certified USDA meat-canning facility, with inspectors on site. The food will be taken by volunteers and donated trucks to MCC warehouses around the country, and then sent to needy communities around the world, like Iraq. He says last year some went to Iraq, Bosnia, Haiti, Liberia, Moldova, Russia and Serbia, and in previous years a lot was sent to North Korea, too. While the traveling canner is often used by congregations in other states to can beef, Yoder says they’ve always used turkey in Iowa, because it’s low in cost and because many of the participants are turkey farmers working with the West Liberty Turkey Co-op. Yoder says local churches buy and can food for the needy, and community volunteers like the opportunity to work on the project every year. He says another reason they choose to can turkey is because it’s “culturally acceptable” all over, whereas some societies or religions ban members from eating beef or pork. The local workers buy deboned turkey thighs so they have literally no waste when it’s been cooked and canned. Yoder says more than 30 congregations of Mennonites involved, and nine Amish districts, most in eastern Iowa. For more on the annual project surf to www.mcc.org
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