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Can-do attitude boosts food bank
Canstruction event benefits Food Bank

 Justin Gibson (left) and Dylan Steele of Brooke Point High School wrap up their Canstruction entry at Spotsylvania Towne Centre. Canned goods were used during the event to build various structures to help the area food bank.
Elijah Nouvelage/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 1/22/2013

BY KATIE THISDELL

Somehow, orange packs of Ramen noodles would become a lampshade, topping a single column of cans.

Many, many more cans already formed a couch, complete with pillows made of bags of rice.

The living room scene was made completely from nonperishables, along with a little help from Velcro and tape. It was one of 11 structures built inside the Spotsylvania Towne Centre as part of the weekend Canstruction charity event, benefiting the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank.

Other entries ranged from children's book pages to a waving flag to a sports field.

Using cans as building blocks isn't as simple as one may think, many team members said.

For Katie Ayala, the armrests on her couch (huge cans of green beans) collapsed a few times. That meant going back to add extra supports to the side to make it stay upright.

"It's a little beat up. It's time to get moving off that one," said Ayala, owner of Off Da Couch Training.

Her business was the inspiration for the structure--made of more than 1,000 cans, primarily healthy foods such as tomato sauce and corn. She wanted the couch to share many messages--including that healthy eating can be done even with a tiny budget.

"A lot of people think you don't have options," Ayala said, referencing statistics linking poverty and obesity. "If you don't have fresh produce, frozen and cans are a very viable option."

As long as you choose the right cans, she said--not the highly processed ones that made up her lamp, the SpaghettiO's and chicken and dumplings that she had hoped to not include.

But as she finished up the scene Friday evening, after building for nine hours the day before, she and client Richard Cook decided to add a lamp as a last accessory.

Teams made up of high school and community college students and local business and school employees did most of their work Thursday and Friday. The structures were on display throughout the weekend, and mall visitors could donate a can or $1 to vote for their favorite. Winners were announced Monday.

"My class worked like a machine," Jessica Dieffenbacher said about her Learn and Serve students at Colonial Forge High School, the builders of the unsolved Rubik's Cube featuring cans of five colors.


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Rocky Run Elementary School was the people's choice winner. The Cat in the Hat's hat, built by 1st and 5th graders out of Campbell's soup cans, received 637 votes over the holiday weekend. People could cast a vote for their favorite of the 10 structures by donating a can or $1.

A panel of judges also chose five winning teams:

Best meal: Off Da Couch, a personal trainer company Best use of labels: Souper Educrew, from Stafford County Public School's central office Structural ingenuity: The MeCANical Engineers, a group of engineering students from Germanna Community College Jurors favorite: Quality Expectations Honorable mention: Stafford County Public Schools Planning & Construction office