Constructing Awareness: Canstruction Competition Builds 25,000 Pounds of Food for the Greater Boston Food Bank

What do Conan O’Brien, Mr. Potato Head, and Garfield have in common? They were all at Bunker Hill Community College earlier this month, raising 25,000 pounds of food for the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Bunker Hill Community College hosted the 15th annual Canstruction Design and Build Competition, in which architecture and design firms build giant structures out of canned goods. There were twelve structures in this years competition. All of the canned food was purchased from Shaw’s supermarket, and was later donated to the Greater Boston Food Bank.

According their website, Canstruction is a non-profit organization which holds design competitions all over the world. The goal of each competition is to inspire communities to work together while raising food to feed the hungry.

Along with Bunker Hill Community College, other Canstruction events have been held as far away as Melbourne, Australia and Christ Church, New Zealand.

This is the third straight year Bunker Hill Community College has hosted the Boston Canstruction Competition. This year’s event was themed “HUNGER is NO LAUGHING MATTER.” The goal of this year’s theme was to stress the seriousness of hunger, while also keeping the competition humorous.

“I thought the suggestion of a humor theme could generate some interesting visual imagery,” said Laura Montgomery, head of the Bunker Hill Community College Art Gallery. “And I thought perhaps if we had some well known comics, representations of them, that could get up more attention and spotlight the local issue of hunger, which is pretty severe.

“We’ve got Garfield lifted from the comic, there’s the penniless clown, Mr. Potato Head,” said Montgomery. “There’s a large chicken down on the first floor, you know, the proverbial oldest joke in the book, why did the chicken cross the road?

“There’s a chair with a Whoopee cushion, which is one of my April Fool’s favorites. There’s a Charlie Brown and Snoopy, there’s revisiting of the Mooninite bomb scare.”

Although each sculpture was a work of art, one in particular may eventually steal the spotlight. Conan O’Brien.

“Then of course there’s [Conan] O’Brien upstairs, who was legally prohibited from being funny all of last year,” said Montgomery. “He’s going to return to the air-waves November 8th, and we’re kind of hoping he’ll maybe give us a little shout out.”

While thousands of cans go into each sculpture, building them doesn’t take very long as the architecture and design firms map out the placement of each can well beforehand.

“It’s a pretty quick process because they pretty much know where each and every can is going,” said Montgomery. “It’s all done by computer assisted design. Well before hand they work up schematics, they know exactly how much food to order, what color cans, which products are in the cans that are going to yield the greatest nutrition.”

Although the designers may have had each structure mapped out well in advance, they still had no trouble finding ways to put the students at Bunker Hill Community College to work.

“We’ve got students from our Community Service Engagement Program that helped out during the build out,” said Montgomery. “Some of them also helped out with the sorting of the food at the Shaw’s warehouse.

“Some of my art gallery interns and work study students helped during the build out, and helped monitor the sculptures to make sure that they were sound, and that there’s no threat of them falling over.”

Although the architecture and design firms put a lot of work into constructing the sculptures and the students helped them ensure the structures were stable, they still had to come down at some point. At the end of the competition, the structures were disassembled and donated to the Greater Boston Food Bank.

“It’s extremely important, especially in this challenging climate we’re all living in right now,” said Cheryl Blanton, Product Donations Manager for the Greater Boston Food Bank. “This donation of product is extremely important.

“We are distributing to over 500 different agencies, soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters, and the need is up dramatically”

According to their website, the Greater Boston Food Bank is the countries oldest hunger-relief organization, and feeds more then 394,000 people throughout eastern Massachusetts.
For more information on the Greater Boston Food Bank visit, http://www.gbfb.org/

(Photo by Ariana DiDomenico)

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