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Fifth annual competition benefits food banks

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Gary Parker, left, Jeff Logston and Chad Pruitt of the Starving Artists team assembled their entry during last year's Canstruction fundraiser.
Gary Parker, left, Jeff Logston and Chad Pruitt of the Starving Artists team assembled their entry during last year's Canstruction fundraiser. PHOTO BY ANDREW LAKER

This weekend at FairOaks Mall, more than 50 Columbus-area engineers, designers and community members are participating in the fifth annual CANstruction competition to benefit area food banks, including Love Chapel, Hope Food Bank and the Salvation Army.

Nine teams have been meeting since December to design and build a structure entirely from cans of food. As elaborately designed as many of the structures are, each has to be completely self-supported, said Chad Pruitt, leader for the Starving Artists team.

Although it is a friendly competition, good luck getting the teams to discuss their structures ahead of Saturday’s actual build day.

Hawcreek Hauling and CANstruction team leader Brennan Dunville said his team is “reaching for the moon this year.”

If you go

What: CANstruction

When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday and Feb. 24

Where: FairOaks Mall, 2380 25th St.

Admission: Free. Monetary and canned food donations accepted.

Vote online:

Information: 376-7468,

“We tried to pick something that most anyone can recognize and identify with, something iconic,” Dunville said. “We plan to take full advantage of the available space this year, especially the 8-foot-high ceiling. We’re planning on making a giant leap for CANkind.”

Each team is given an area measuring 10 feet by 10 feet in which to build their structure, said Joyce Lucke, CANstruction organizer with Paragon Meeting and Events.

The structures remain on display until Feb. 24, then all cans are donated to area food banks to help feed those in need.

Lucke said there are several awards the structures may win:

  • Structures offering canned foods with the best nutritional content may be awarded best meal.
  • Best use of labels is given to the structure with graphics that give the structure its skin and make the illusion complete.
  • The team with the most bold and daring structure wins best ingenuity.
  • The judges’ favorite, determined by a panel of five, is awarded to the structure the panel feels is the overall best.

From Sunday through the following Sunday, people may vote for their favorite design by depositing a can of food in the bin located beside each structure, Lucke said. One can equals one vote.

Those food items also are donated to pantries after the competition ends.

“This year, we’re going to try something different with the online voting,” Lucke said. “Each vote will be a dollar donation, and they can vote as many times as they wish.”

All cans for the builds are acquired through fundraising and donations, Lucke said.

According to Sheena Seger, Toyota’s CANstruction team leader, fundraising is the biggest challenge of the entire process.

“It is easier if you solicit funds, especially for what you are going to build with,” Seger said. “That way, you know things are the right size and will stack on one another.”

The Starving Artists, who designed a replica of the Taj Mahal last year, have set their goal and are up to 4,000 to 5,000 cans per year, Pruitt said.

“The goal of the project is to definitely impact hunger and raise awareness of hunger problems that exist globally,” Pruitt said.

“This program is a creative way to do that by challenging teams to design and build structures completely out of cans that are both fun to look at and can be completely donated to help the need.”

Elizabeth Kestler, executive director for Love Chapel, says her organization’s involvement this year is primarily to recruit volunteers and pick up donations. The Love Chapel received 8,664 pounds of food from last year’s competition. That is enough food to feed an estimated 170 households of four people for 10 days.

Kestler says the project serves multiple purposes.

“It helps raise greatly needed food, awareness, and it promotes imagination and art,” Kestler said. “We are fortunate to receive food from this project. It comes during a time when donations begin to slow down.”

The CANstruction competition was founded by the late Cheri Melillo in 1992 and has became one of the largest charitable food drives in the world.

Since the first competition in New York City in 1992, the event is held in more than 140 cities worldwide and donates more than 15 million pounds of canned food, according to the official CANstruction web site.

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