Food drive reaches new heights in CANstruction contest

Canned food drives are plentiful these days. Everywhere you go-school, temple, grocery store, post office, library, retirement center, shopping mall, movie theater, even the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra — a barrel devours your donation of black bean soup or beef stew like an empty belly starved for nourishment.

In desperation to fill the sparse food pantries and ease the burden on government support, a can of tuna is as valuable as gold these days.


“While people are very generous during the holiday season, food donations typically slow down after the first of the year, but the need for assistance actually continues to increase because of the poor economy,” said Sue Rundblad, coordinator of the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.

Obviously, hunger doesn’t go away after the annual Boy Scout Food Drive. In fact, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week that nearly one million people in Missouri use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), which is almost 14 percent more than last year.

However, after a while, people stop noticing the barrels and mistake them for trashcans, discarding wads of bubble gum instead of cans of green beans and creamed corn.

A great way to bring attention to the plight of the growing number of hungry families in need is to feed the imagination body as well as the body.

The ninth annual CANstruction Competition and Show, which kicks off Friday, March 6, at the St Louis Mills in Hazelwood, does just that. This amazing over-the-top exhibit challenges 12 teams of leading St Louis engineers, architects, construction firms, and college students to design and build larger-than-life masterpieces that take a canned food drive to a whole other dimension. The more than 37,000 full cans of food used to make the giant self-supporting structures will be donated to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry and the St Louis Area Foodbank.

These ingenious nutrition-packed “canned” sculptures include an eight foot-high flashlight made of sauerkraut and diced potatoes, an enormous circus elephant constructed of sliced carrots and spaghetti and meatballs, a big tureen and ladle made with 1,900 cans of soup, and a roller coaster built out of more than 3,500 cans of pastas and sweetened condensed milk. On March 16, a panel of experts in the field, including St. Louis artist Andy Magee who appeared in Time magazine for crafting the famous President Obama portrait made from circulated coins, will judge the displays based on “Best Meal,” “Structural Ingenuity” and “Juror’s Favorite.” Winners from this event will go on to compete in the national competition next month.

“The design and construction industry gets to showcase their talents and, in the process, they aid in the fight against hunger in our community,” says Vickie Hayden, the local chairperson for CANstruction, which is sponsored by the Society for Design Administration.

“We encourage families to come out to the mall on Friday morning and watch how these builders put together their unique structures, which will be on display through March 16. Visitors also can bring a canned good and vote on their favorites. The event doesn’t cost a thing for a full day of fun, including a nutritional scavenger hunt for the kids on Saturday afternoon,” adds Hayden, an account manager at Randy Burkett Lighting Design, Inc. in Webster Groves.

Between the canned goods used to make the sculptures and a coinciding food drive at all Charter Communications Care Centers and participating Save-a-Lot Food Stores through March 8, more than 50,000 pounds of food is expected to be collected, which is equivalent to more than 78,000 meals.

“This competition and community-wide food drive plays a major role in spreading the world about the growing issue of hunger in St Louis,” says Hayden, “The creation of the program demonstrates how everyone can get involved using their own talents in the fight against hunger.”

The scope of this international community service project, which involves 135 cities and five countries, has an enormous reach. Last year, the unique food charity event collected more than two million pounds of food for hunger-relief organizations across the country. Since its inception in 1993, more the 10 million pounds of food has been donated to families in need.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a stay-at-home mom who never stays home. For more information on CANstruction 2009, call the St. Louis Mills at 314 227 5910.