Contest creatively collects canned food for Tarrant Area Food Bank

Whoever said not to play with your food might not have heard of “canstruction” competitions.

According to the organization’s website, canstruction is a design/build competition to create structures built entirely of canned and packages foods. Currently, Fort Worth architectural, design and construction firms are working towards creating their can structures with foods that will ultimately benefit the Tarrant Area Food Bank.

The canstruction organization hosts contests in over 20 locations around the world. Each year the regional contests have a theme that the designs must fit with. This year’s is “Passport to End Hunger,” according to the organization’s website.

The Fort Worth and Dallas chapters will display their creations from September 19-October 24 at the State Fair of Texas.

Julie Meeks is the co-chair of the Fort Worth canstruction competition. She said that in 17 years of participating, she has seen great community cooperation.

“We have a lot of small companies that participate, even in times where the economy is bad they still seem to make it work,” Meeks said. “There are also larger companies with 30-100 employees.”

Andrea Helms, the communications director at the TAFB, said the competition is driven by the Society for Design Administration and the American Institute of Architecture in Fort Worth.

“They want to show off their ability to design and also help the hungry in Fort Worth,” said Helms.

“It’s always amazing to me the things they create,” she said. “Everything from giant cowboy boots to a seal balancing a ball on its nose to a toilet.”

At a planning meeting for the 2015 event, Tammy Albright of the Huitt-Zollers engineering and architectural firm said that the process of fundraising for the event starts early.

“What you can raise determines what you can afford to build,” she said. “I’ve never asked for our company money. I go around asking people for loose change and send out letters to companies we do business with. We also have bake sales in the office.”

Once the firms have raised the money, they typically do research to find cans that have the correct color labels for their intended designs, firm representatives at the meeting said.

“People in grocery stores must wonder what we are doing,” Albright said. “We go and take pictures of cans to plan.”

According to the guidelines for the competition, the maximum build time is 12 hours. Each structure must be no more than 10 feet long, 10 feet wide and 10 feet high.

Since 1999, canstruction contests in Fort Worth have raised over 821,560 pounds of canned food, or the equivalent of about 53 full-grown elephants, according to the Tarrant Area Food Bank Canstruction project.

According to the rules and regulations handout, the canstruction organization encourages firms to stay away from junk food and only use nutritious foods in their builds.

Once the winners for the regional contests are announced, certain structures will advance to the national and international competitions, and Meeks said Fort Worth has a good track record when it comes to the competition.

“In 17 years, builds from Fort Worth have won international titles 9 times,” she said. “It’s really mindboggling to me every year.”

To learn more about canstruction visit their website.