Teams representing Columbus businesses, social service agencies and clubs are about to feed the hungry by creating sculptures out of canned food.

Teams will use thousands of cans to create whimsical and technically-elaborate structures beginning 10 a.m. Feb. 20 at FairOaks Mall in the hopes of winning the local CANstruction competition, part of a national event organized to feed the hungry.

The local teams, who registered months ago, have been raising money to purchase colorful canned goods to create their sculptures for the eighth annual CANstruction event, said Joy King, United Way of Bartholomew County volunteer coordinator.

Once they begin to set up at the mall, team members have eight hours to finish their creations.

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Every can collected eventually will be donated to food pantries run by Love Chapel, The Salvation Army or the Community Center of Hope.

But not before Columbus residents have a week to admire the handiwork of each of the eight competing teams.

“Every team does it differently,” said King.

But few other communities have Columbus’s density of engineers and architects, she said, making for some unique ideas of what can be done with cans.

Over the years, the results of this combined brainpower have been impressive, King said. One team built a pirate ship from Red Gold tomato cans. Another constructed an 8-foot-tall jar of Jif Peanut Butter complete with giant knife, plate and bread for a sandwich.

Beyond aesthetics, some of designs require an enormous amount of engineering expertise, said Dustin Hall, Cummins product design engineer and HawCreek Hauling team captain.

Four years ago, his team built a reproduction of the suspension bridge leading from State Road 46 to downtown Columbus, Hall said. Through careful planning, the group was able to suspend several dozen cans between two platforms with no supports beneath. The structure was even sturdy enough to carry several mock cars made from yet more cans, Hall said.

This year, when the group gathered in early November to start planning, members were torn between a giant model of legendary Nintendo plumber Mario, correctly rendered in his original 8-bit format or models of the vintage, blue and red Battleship board game.

Among all the sculptures constructed over the years, King said, her favorite was a rendering of Mr. Potato Head, complete with removable limbs and the toy’s signature eyeglasses.

Last year, 36,000 cans were collected for the food banks, King said. She hopes this year’s event provides more than 40,000 cans.

Registration for participation in the event closed in November, King said. Since $2,000 to $6,000 worth of food is usually required for each sculpture, depending on size, it takes from November to the end of January for many of the teams to raise enough money to compete, she added.

Teams will be competing for five CANstruction awards, including honors for best creative design work and the team that collects the most cans.

Throughout the weekend, those who stop in the mall to view the sculptures also will be able to vote for their favorite by donating additional cans at the display of their choice.

At a glance

When: CANstruction is 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 20. Completed canned good sculptures will be on display until noon Feb. 28.

Where: FairOaks Mall, 2380 25th St., Columbus.