SALEM – If you were at Willamette Town Center on Lancaster Drive in Salem from March 9-17, you may have noticed five structures made of curious building material.
There was replica of the recently completed Park Front Office Building in Salem; a couple of enormous cherries and a lightening bolt; a house the size of a generous dog house; a giant tape measure; and the state of Oregon standing several feet tall.
All the structures were made of cans of food, 11,082 of them.
That food will go to Marion-Polk Food Share as part of National Association of Women in Construction’s first Canstruction event.
This year’s contest had five teams participating: South Town Glass, Rich Duncan Construction, Cherry City Electric, NAWIC, and students from Salem-Keizer School’s Career Technical Education Center.
“We hope to get literal tons of canned food from this event for the Marion-Polk Food Share,” said Juli Foscoli, the accounts manager with South Town Glass and member of NAWIC, who co-organized the event.
Canstruction had the teams building their designs in a six-hour period in a 10-by-10-foot space in the mall. Materials consisted of canned food, tape, card board, wire and plywood. No power tools were allowed.
For CTEC students, there was an additional challenge: They arrived to find a pile of cans waiting from them. The team had to design and then build their structure in six hours. They chose to build a house, recognizing CTEC’s construction program.
Completed structures were later judged by the mayors of six towns in Polk and Marion counties: Brian Dalton (Dallas), Jeremy Gordon (Falls City), John McArdle (Independence), Cathy Clark (Keizer), Cec Koontz (Monmouth), and Chuck Bennett (Salem).
The consensus among the mayors was that Cherry City Electric was the most creative. The company’s entry “Hungerstruck” used a lightening bolt and two cherries hooked together with stems made of green tea packets.
Each entry had a short explanation for viewers to learn more about the structure and building process.
Koontz said Cherry City’s sculpture was her favorite because it was striking to look at.
“It’s impressive without reading it,” she said.
Koontz and Gordon both said Rich Duncan Construction’s replica of the Park Front building also was well-executed. South Town Glass created a giant tape measure, one of most frequently used tools by those installing windows.
NAWIC’s structure, though no part of the judging, was the shape of Oregon made of green-labeled cans.
Mallgoers had a chance to see the structures until March 17 to vote of the “People’s Choice” award. Then the structures were “decanstructed,” and given to Marion-Polk Food Share.
Foscoli said build day only had one minor mishap, as part of Eastern Oregon crumbled to the ground and had to be rebuilt.
“The teams were pretty well organized. I thought we would have more hiccups, so this little bit of Oregon falling down, that was it,” she said. “I think everybody was really prepared.”
She said Canstruction PDX assisted in the event’s first year in the Salem area, and the Willamette Town Center was a good host. The mall donated the cans for NAWIC’s structure, she said.
Foscoli said NAWIC and Marion-Polk Food Share want to expand Canstructuion next year, and they may get some help from Polk County schools.
Falls City Careers Teacher Lynn Bailey and several students from Falls City High School accompanied Gordon for the mayor’s judging on March 9 with interest in finding out how to participate next year.
Koontz, also the business administrator for Central School District, said she would take the idea to the district’s career teacher.
Foscoli said the hope for 2020 is to have can structures in several places in the areas Marion-Polk Food Share serves. Each team would display their structure for two weeks and post information about the mission of the contest.
"I'm imagining structure set up around Polk and Marion counties at schools, banks, businesses ... and these structures are amazing conversation starters," Foscoli said. "It was incredible how many people stopped to ask me questions about them.
Then teams would tear down their design and rebuild it on the group build day on May 16, 2020.
Marion-Polk Food Share Chief Executive Officer and President Rick Gaupo said Canstruction is a fun way to spread the word about hunger in the community.
“It’s a unique way to draw attention to the issue of hunger and it’s easy to participate,” Gaupo said. “In terms of mission, in terms of getting food to the community, this is wonderful.”
Gaupo said through donations, Marion-Polk was able to deliver 446,000 pounds to Dallas last year, which translates to $557,000 in value that families in need didn’t have to spend or could spend elsewhere.
“That translated into helping people stay in their house because that is money that they didn’t need for food,” Gaupo said. “They could use it for rent or gas or to clothe their kids.”
Koontz said she wants the event to grow in the coming years.
“This is very cool,” Koontz said. “It’s a fun and creative thing.”
Canstruction 2020 is scheduled for May 16. For more information on how to participate: CanstructionSalemOregon@Gmail.com.