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Published November 22, 2010, 12:05 PM

Mennonites organize effort to can meat in Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A Mennonite group is raising money to buy 17,000 pounds of turkey as part of a national effort to feed people throughout the world.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A Mennonite group is raising money to buy 17,000 pounds of turkey as part of a national effort to feed people throughout the world.

Each year, people who attend Mennonite churches, many in the Amish community and others gather in Kalona to work two days at a converted canning assembly line. The year, the event will be Jan. 6 and 7.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports that the local effort is part of a national project organized by the Pennsylvania-based Mennonite Central Committee, which has been sending food around the world since the 1940s. The organization sends a flatbed truck equipped with a canning operation throughout the U.S. and Canada, making stops in dozens of communities.

Those organizing the Kalona stop hope to raise $30,000 to buy 17,000 pounds of boneless turkey thighs from West Liberty Foods, volunteer Wes Rinner of Wayland said.

Organizers are seeking about 100 volunteers — both from the Mennonite community and elsewhere — to help can Jan. 6, beginning at 5 a.m. and continuing into the evening. People in the Amish community will do their part Jan. 7.

“Many hands make light work, so if everybody helps, it isn’t that big of a deal,” Rinner said.

Volunteers will pack turkey into 2- to 3-pound cans, which will be sealed and cooked. They then will be labeled, shipped to distribution hubs and ultimately sent to people in need around the world.

Turkey is chosen because people in some cultures don’t eat red meat and pork.

“They start pretty early in the morning, and they want people to be busy all day long for two days, and that takes quite a bit of meat,” said Mary Yoder Short, a Kalona residents who has volunteered in the past.

The Mennonite Central Committee shipped more than a half-million cans of meat in the last fiscal year. Countries receiving food included North Korea, Haiti, Bosnia and Colombia.

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