Traverse City Canstruction Event Builds Food Supply for Pantry

Traverse City Central High School cheerleaders work on their Canstruction exhibit from last year. They're building a castle at this year's event.
Traverse City Central High School cheerleaders work on their Canstruction exhibit from 2014. They’re building a castle at this year’s event.

A magical castle will be erected this weekend inside the Grand Traverse Mall. It’s not enchanted or home to a fire-breathing dragon, but what it will do for many Traverse City-area residents is powerful: it will feed them.

The castle is just one of 13 displays being put together for this year’s Canstruction exhibit, where teams come together to build fantastical structures using canned and boxed food. The Traverse City Central High School cheer team will build their castle entry on Saturday using 664 cans of soup, 24 boxes of crackers, and 88 cans of pineapple juice, all of which will be donated to The Father Fred Foundation food pantry. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is sponsoring the cheer team in the competition.

All the displays will go up on Saturday, Feb. 21 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and will stay up through Feb. 28. Judging and an awards ceremony will take place at the mall on Sunday, Feb. 22.

Donna Broyles, Special Events and Marketing Manager for The Father Fred Foundation, said one in five children in the five-county area the food pantry serves experiences food insecurity. This means that on any given day, children and their parents might not have enough to eat.

The Canstruction event will line Father Fred’s pantry with about ten pallets of food, or 18,000 individual items. Over the course of one week, the pantry goes through about three pallets of food, meaning Canstruction will keep them operating for about three weeks.

While the food donated may not last long, Canstruction also serves to raise awareness for the foundation, which operates the largest food pantry in Northern Michigan. It also raises awareness about the problem of hunger and temporary food shortages that sometimes befall residents of Grand Traverse, Antrim, Benzie, Kalkaska, and Leelanau counties, which are all served by Father Fred’s.

The cheer team chose the castle design to signify how strong they felt building their palm tree entry last year. As cheerleaders, team members reached the top of their structure by climbing on each other’s shoulders instead of relying on ladders. Coach Alisha Baker said Canstruction is something the varsity cheer team looks forward to every year, but this weekend’s event put the team to the test as they were recently accepted to participate in the Spirit Shine Competition in Flint on the same weekend.

The finished tree from last year.
The finished tree from last year.

“My varsity team is devastated (to miss it),” Baker said. “We sincerely debated attending this competition because Canstruction holds that much value for us. In order to be able to do both, the JV team has stepped up and will be doing the build.”

Baker said she’s proud of both squads for pulling together to make the build a reality.

“The team and I talk a lot about the importance of community involvement,” she said. “We love our roles within Central High School, but the team loves to feel a part of the greater community. The girls know we are working hard to set an example, both for area young ladies and for other Central students regarding the importance of helping upstanding student role models.”

The cheerleaders will bring to life the vision of Traverse City architect Tom Piehl, who also volunteered his design services to Canstruction last year. He said the completed castle will look a bit like a rook Chess piece, with cans selected to simulate brick masonry. Piehl said there are a lot of similarities in designing a building with food or more traditional materials, but using cans definitely brings new challenges.

“It’s all gravity,” he said. “They’re not glued together and they’re not connected together in any way.”

Piehl said he looks forward to seeing the creativity and ingenuity the other teams bring to their designs, and that he was happy to volunteer his time for The Father Fred Foundation.

“Keeping the food pantry stocked is their primary objective,” Piehl said. “They’re a very positive organization to have in our community and very helpful to a lot of families. The work they do is just great.”

Canstruction events are held annually in over 150 cities around the world. Since 1992, Canstruction events have helped raise over 25 million pounds of food. This is the fifth year for the Traverse City event.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly indoor activity in Northern Michigan this weekend, Canstruction is the place to be. Learn more about The Father Fred Foundation and consider a donation or volunteering to help Northern Michigan residents in need.

 

Photo credit: Alisha Baker & Pedro Reyna

 

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