Our Stories: CANstruction helps replenish local food pantries

With every canned good, box of Cheerios and bag of noodles, dozens of volunteers built a way to help feed people in Bartholomew County.

Collectively using about 46,000 perishable food items, elementary school students built a paw print and husky using canned goods. Manufacturing company employees built a floor of their factory and a hot air balloon, eye glasses, a “Wizard of Oz” scene, a map of America, a tractor and a ship rounded out the builds.

United Way of Bartholomew County and FairOaks Mall hosted the 11th annual CANstruction Competition at FairOaks Mall in Columbus.

The tens of thousands of items they used will be divided between three food pantries, including the Community Center of Hope, Love Chapel and the Salvation Army and will help with part of United Way’s mission to make sure everyone in the community has their basic needs met, including food.

About 46,000 canned goods and perishable food items were used to build the structures, but organizers hope about 50,000 will be collected over the course of the event to help feed the estimated 9,000 county residents who struggle with food insecurity, according to data from the United Way of Bartholomew County.

Structures will be on display through Sunday, March 1.  Community members can bring canned goods to the mall and vote for their favorite structure using the canned goods. The structure that gets the most canned food votes will win the People’s Choice Award.

Participating teams included Starving Artist, Sunrise Rotary, Toyota, Hawcreek Hawling, Faureciam CSA Lincoln, IU School of Architecture, CAN’d Associates and We Are Family

Since its inception, the local CANstruction event has collected more than 300,000 cans while raising local hunger awareness to the community.

The canned food items used for the event will enable the organizations to save money on food purchases, which will free up money in their coffers for other programs, said Alicia Monroe, Volunteer Action Center Director and an organizer of the event.

“Without this event, the food pantries would be devastated as they would most likely run out or have to purchase food in which other programs/services they offer would suffer,” she said.

The event consistently raises thousands of cans of food to support our local food pantries during the peak of demand and when donations dip to its lowest point during the months of February to March.

The canned goods each organization will receive from the event will help stock the pantries all year and not just during peak times, said Ashley Mack, administrative assistant for Community Center of Hope.

“(CANstruction), helps keep our shelves stocked very well,” she said. “It will build us back up to a platform we can work from.”