Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Needed: People to play with their food

The Volunteer Way is looking for people to take part in this year’s Canstruction, an art contest/food drive set for April 26 through May 2.

Special to the Times

The Volunteer Way is looking for people to take part in this year’s Canstruction, an art contest/food drive set for April 26 through May 2.

PORT RICHEY — Last spring, a space shuttle prepared for blastoff just outside the doors of a one-hour photo shop. Nearby stood a brightly-colored replica of a cartoon fish named Nemo.

The artsy exhibit at Gulf View Square mall was also an edible one, made of canned goods such as tuna fish and green beans. The structures were created by local architectural firms as part of Canstruction, a designing competition using canned goods that were then donated to the Volunteer Way Food Bank.

But because of the housing bust and the recession, some of the architectural and engineering firms who teamed up to create the structures last year say they can't afford to participate in this year's Canstruction event.

They say the $100 registration fee, coupled with the cost of buying thousands of cans of food, is too pricey this year.

In an e-mail to the food bank, Angela Holcomb of Gresham, Smith and Partners in Tampa, a firm that participated last year, said they can't afford to spend the extra money. Other firms have haven't responded or said they weren't sure if they could participate.

That leaves officials scrambling to find participants for the event, which netted about 8,000 canned goods last year and is scheduled for April 26 to May 2.

In an effort to keep the event going, the food bank will try to partner professional firms with local volunteers to help supply the canned goods, said Martha O'Brien, the food bank's assistant CEO.

The idea for the Canstruction program came about in 2002. The food bank's CEO, Lester Cypher, stumbled across the program online while looking for places to get canned goods to stock the food bank's warehouse.

"I tried to get the program off the ground, but the hard part was getting groups to participate and build the structures," he said. "They didn't have time or weren't interested."

Soon after, Cypher said, O'Brien joined the food bank's staff and got the program off the ground. Officials joined New York-based Canstruction. For a fee of $100 a year, the food bank receives books on how to run a Canstruction project and plaques for the winners of the event.

The food bank's first Canstruction was held last year near the food court at the mall. Four teams, comprised of local architectural firms, took between four and seven hours to build the structures.

About 2,000 cans went into each structure.

For a fee of $1 per vote or a donation of a canned good, anyone who stopped by the display could vote on their favorite structure. Awards were given for categories like best meal or structural integrity. The food bank made about $500 in profits.

That was after the food bank paid a $1,000 liability fee that the mall charged for using the space. So this year, O'Brien looked for a location that wouldn't cost as much.

Last month, Karen King, director of sales at Homewood Suites in Port Richey, heard about O'Brien's search from a friend who serves on the food bank's board of directors.

King offered to have her hotel — still under construction but planning to open in March — host the event for free.

With a cost-free location nailed down, all O'Brien needs now is firms willing to participate.

Like last year, O'Brien has tried to drum up interest by contacting AIA Tampa Bay, a professional organization for architects, and by inserting a flier in the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce's newsletter. She's hopeful the food bank can pull off the event.

"If we come together as a community," O'Brien said, "we can all benefit from this."

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at or (813) 909-4609.

Fast facts

How to help

If you'd like to participate in the Canstruction project or volunteer to collect donations and canned goods, call The Volunteer Way at (727) 815-0433. For information, go to

Needed: People to play with their food 02/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 7, 2009 11:16am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pitching on no rest backfires for Erasmo Ramirez, Rays

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — After battling through a 61/2-hour affair Sunday in Minnesota that was the second-longest game in franchise history, Rays officials were quick to decide that even though Erasmo Ramirez had just worked the 15th and final inning, they would stick with him to start Monday's game in Texas.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers, comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  2. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  3. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  4. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  5. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)