Canstruction: Fighting Hunger With Fantastic Food Can Sculptures (Photos)

canstruction photo
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It's that time of year again when giant, whimsical sculptures -- made entirely out of stacked canned food -- will be built overnight by teams of designers competing in a fun (and occasionally harrowing) event that also doubles as one of the world's biggest food drives with a creative -- and communal -- twist.We're talking about Canstruction, an annual international charity competition that aims to raise hunger awareness during Thanksgiving. Founded in the United States in 1992, it's now spread to over 170 cities with 30,000 volunteers, and donated millions of pounds of food -- boasting 2 million pounds in 2010 alone.

In contrast to a single individual or family donating a box of cans, Canstruction is a community design effort that engages architects, engineers, students and the public in an altruistic and imaginative event. Using only cans, amazing structures are built with a few simple rules: full, labelled cans only; no glue and only a team of 5 people building at one time.

canstruction photo
canstruction photo

Photos: Canstruction
Weeks of preparation
On average, it takes teams 8 to 12 weeks of planning and preparation for the big night when teams have to stack thousands of cans in one night. As I can attest as a former participant some years ago, sometimes cans collapse, unexpected crises ensue as the night hours tick on, but in the end, it's all for a good cause.

After the sculptures go up, they'll be judged, exhibited and then dismantled to be donated to local food banks. Visitors to the exhibits are also encouraged to donate food.

canstruction photo
canstruction photo
Mafue via Flickr (top

Photos: Mafue via Flickr (top), Mafue via Flickr (bottom)

In New York City alone, it's estimated that 100,000 cans of food will be donated this year to organizations like City Harvest, which 'rescues' excess food from restaurants and supermarkets and redirects them to the needy, in addition to increasing access to fresh food from local farms.

Says Michele Maestri, Co-Chair of Canstruction New York:

Everyone can appreciate the art of Canstruction, from art enthusiasts to children of all ages. But the show isn't just a feast for the eye. It brings to light the worldwide hunger crisis and is a way for the design community to respond to that issue on a local level.
canstruction photo
canstruction photo
andrew_ross via Flickr (top

Photos: andrew_ross via Flickr (top), andrew_ross via Flickr (bottom)

Sure, it's not the same nor as sustainable as growing your own food. But in coupling community design initiatives like Canstruction with other food security and local urban planning programs (like rescuing food 'waste', permablitzes, community and roof gardens), it could be a multi-pronged and creative way to tackle hunger, poverty and sustainable food issues in our cities, starting with one can.

To find a local Canstruction event near you, check out the Canstruction locations online.