As of February 2011, the PA Department of Labor estimated that more than 95,000 people were unemployed in the Pittsburgh metro area. Due to the recent recession, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is serving more people than ever. Relying on food solicitation, fund-raising, donations, special events, and community partnerships, the Food Bank distributes around 27 million pounds of food per year in an 11 county area. CANstruction Pittsburgh is one such event that helps the Food Bank meet their needs.
CANstruction Pittsburgh was gearing up for its second annual competition to benefit Pittsburgh’s hungry. Started in New York in 1992, CANstruction brings together design and construction professionals to create structures and sculptures made entirely of canned goods to create awareness of the fight against hunger while collecting food and raising money to donate to local food banks. Locally, the event has teamed with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
Seven teams had come forward to participate in the competition, with team members including architects, intern architects, engineers, contractors, and more. As each team designed their structures, they had to calculate what would be needed to create it, as well as fundraise and acquire the cans to build the final sculpture. One team, led by Desmone and Associates architect Rebecca Lowe, AIA, was starting to really think about the impact their contribution could make. While building with canned goods was a fun design challenge, it also meant a lot more, especially to those it would eventually feed. After hearing a story on the radio, the Desmone-sponsored team decided that they would like to donate their cans to the Greater Washington County Food Bank.
“We chose the Washington County Food Bank because… they were low on food and looking for donations. We thought it was a great opportunity to help fulfill their need. Both myself and another teammate live in Canonsburg so that was just an added bonus, that we could help out the area we live in too,” recalls Lowe.
And help they did. The Desmone team, “Hope for the Hungry”, went on to build a massive lighthouse, consisting of more than 2,750 cans. Their efforts were awarded with three of the six awards available for the competition, “Best Meal”, “Jurors’ Favorite”, and “People’s Choice”. And those nearly three thousand cans were then put to good use.
“Over the past 5 years our Food Bank, along with other food banks in our region, has seen close to a 100% increase in the number of clients served each month. Unfortunately, funding for food bank programs has not increased to meet the growing demand…” says Mary Ann Loar, Assistant Director of the Greater Washington County Food Bank. “This is why community donations are so vital in assisting us to fulfill our mission of helping those less fortunate in need of food assistance. The donation we received from CANstruction Pittsburgh of over 2,500 cans of food was a welcome addition to the monthly supplemental food packages for many of our clients.”
In addition to the donation to Washington County, CANstruction Pittsburgh’s design competition netted a nearly 10,000 can donation to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, totaling over 12,000 cans, an estimated $11,800 value, to help local families in need.
After last year’s success, CANstruction Pittsburgh chair-person Anastasia Herk, Assoc. AIA, is looking forward to another great event. Being held for the first time at the Robinson Mall, the potential for foot traffic and greater awareness can’t be overlooked. The exhibit will be open to the public from September 22 – October 4, with the Gala and Awards Reception to be held the evening of the 4th.
Have a great idea for a can sculpture? Want to participate in a creative way to raise awareness and contribute to the community? Be a part of an unconventional design team? Then think about participating in CANstruction 2013. Go to the CANstruction Pittsburgh website to learn more. Team registration is due by August 20th.