Fighting hunger is worth far more than a hill of beans — or even a stack.

Organizers of the 10th annual CANstruction artistic build competition Saturday know that it’s worth thousands of cans of beans, meats, vegetables, you name it.

Donating such nonperishable items is a tangible way local residents can help make sure struggling families have enough to eat for the next few months.

Using canned food, eight teams will compete for a judging panel’s five awards and the public’s People’s Choice Award after they build their creations from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at FairOaks Mall, 2380 25th St. in Columbus.

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“People can come out to cheer on the teams (as they build),” said Joy King, United Way of Bartholomew County’s coordinator for the event, hosted by the local Food Insecurity Coalition.

The teams are: Starving Artists, Sunrise Rotary, C4 Engineering (high school students), Clifty Creek Elementary (fifth-graders), Purdue Polytechnic Columbus, Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, Hawcreek Hauling (consisting of Cummins Inc. employees) and Faurecia.

Once people come out, they can donate cans to vote for their favorite team and completed structure for the People’s Choice Award. Jury awards will be given Sunday. People can vote for the People’s Choice Award from Saturday through Feb. 25.

CANstruction is an international design and engineering competition where local teams construct large structures completely out of canned food. After the competition, the cans used for building and those used for voting are donated to the food banks of Love Chapel, Salvation Army, Community Center of Hope and the pantries at both Columbus North and Columbus East high schools.

Since the local CANstruction began, more than a quarter million cans of food have been donated to area food banks, King said. That total ranks Bartholomew County 24th in the world in CANstruction generosity and third worldwide in per capita food donations by weight, she said.

The school pantries are new to the effort this year, and that’s one reason why organizers are working to collect a record 40,000 cans this year. Last year, a record 38,000 cans were collected.

There is reason to believe, based upon teams’ big building plans and the community’s generosity in voting with canned goods, that a new record can be established, King said.

The teams are expected to use about 28,000 cans, according to projections.

Sponsors of CANstruction are FairOaks Mall, United Way of Bartholomew County, Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, Love Chapel, and the Columbus Area Career Connect.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.