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Long IslandNassau

Canstruction Long Island builds up to diminish hunger

The professional team from H2M architects + engineers

The professional team from H2M architects + engineers won the Juror's Favorite award for "Found Dory, Now Let's Find a Solution to Hunger" at the Canstruction Awards Reception. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Peaches, tuna and corn. Sardines, yams and pink salmon. Those ingredients are best kept separate at the dinner table, but they were a winning combination at the 10th annual Canstruction Long Island competition, where thousands of cans of food are donated to feed the hungry.

Visitors can see the flights of design imagination and structural ingenuity on display at RXR Plaza in Uniondale from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Nov. 13 and vote for their favorite with a can of food. The canned goods — 51,794 cans were used this year — bring 13 designs to life in sculptural structures built to address hunger on Long Island.

“The creativity from year to year keeps amazing me,” said Tracy Lobdell, executive director and treasurer of the local chapter of the Canstruction nonprofit and senior marketing coordinator at Greenman-Pedersen Inc., a consulting engineering and construction management firm in Babylon. “The teams keep coming up with unique and different ideas and concepts people can relate to.”

Cans of pink salmon help Melville-based H2M architects + engineers’ structure depict the title character from “Finding Nemo,” while the blue of tuna labels brings Dory to life. And many, many cans of peaches make Pikachu in Jericho-based John W. Baumgarten Architect’s Pokémon-inspired structure.

Members of the Spector Group team have been participating since the Canstruction Long Island chapter was formed in 2006. Team member Joe Suserman, a project architect at the Woodbury architecture and design firm, remembers when the company took part in earlier Canstruction competitions, with Spector’s 1998 light bulb structure “Food for Thought” going on to compete at the national level. This year’s design of a glass of milk and stacks of Oreo cookies, “Let’s Dunk to Ending Hunger,” went together easily on Oct. 26, the night the 13 teams filled the atrium at RXR Plaza to build their designs.

Each professional team gets a 10-by-10-foot section marked off with tape, and its structure can reach up to 10 feet in height; student teams get a 7-square-foot footprint with a 5-foot height limit. Up to 10 team members can help over the course of the build, but only five members stack at a time.

Some of the groups building structures set up cameras to take time-lapse photos so they could later post videos on their webpage. Jennifer Murray, whose handbell-ringing group Long Island reSound participated for its second year, added a soundtrack of the group ringing “Linus and Lucy,” the informal theme song for Charlie Brown, when she edited the video, then posted it to reSound’s website.

The student team from Friends Academy in Locust Valley built a gumball machine out of cans, calling it “Turn the Key on Hunger.” The school’s participation in the competition “started as an engineering club project and morphed into a community service-based club,” said Amy Geiger, 17, of Dix Hills, a senior in her third year on the team. Students used plywood with the edges painted red for support between layers, and taped tuna cans in a circle to look like coins.

“The real challenge was finding cans that are colorful enough for gumballs,” Geiger said. “We looked for the boldest colors.”

Feeding the hungry

All of the cans used in the sculptures and collected at the show will be donated to four Long Island food pantries, with the bulk of the food split among the Interfaith Nutrition Network, Island Harvest and Long Island Cares. For space reasons, Lobdell said, a smaller amount will go to NEST, or Nassau Empowerment and Support for Tomorrow, at Nassau Community College.

Winners were named at an Oct. 27 ceremony at RXR Plaza, with awards given in the professional and student categories.

Visitors to the exhibit can vote on a People’s Choice winner in both categories by placing cans in the donation bins in front of their favorite structures. The names of the winners will be posted on Canstruction Long Island’s Facebook page on Nov. 15, Lobdell said.

This year, a combined community group of Senior Girl Scout Troop 4299 from Rocky Point and the Parent Action Committee Inc. of Amityville, a group that focuses on helping at-risk youths, worked with mentor Jan Murray, of Lines & Designs 3D, a freelance CADD design and 3-D modeling firm in Mastic.

“When you share a common goal like that, it really does cement relationships,” Murray said. “And when your structure helps people, when it makes 3,335 meals, it’s the real deal. It means something.”

Contestants and the Winners’ Circle

Professional groups

  • “Found Dory, Now Let’s Find a Solution to Hunger,” from H2M architects + engineers / Juror’s Favorite
  • “Pika-can-chu, Gotta Catch ‘em All,” from John W. Baumgarten Architect PC / Structural Ingenuity
  • “Gu-CAN-heim . . . No CANS Left Behind,” from JRS Architect PC, and Waldner’s Business Environments / Honorable Mention
  • “It’s the Great PumpCAN, Charlie Brown!” from Lines & Designs 3D and Long Island reSound / Best Use of Labels
  • “Everyone Deserves S’more Food,” from LKB Consulting Engineers / Best Meal and Most Cans
  • “Shine a Light on Hunger,” Nassau Community College Interior Design Department and the Interior Design Society
  • “If You Had to Choose,” Rosenbaum Design Group
  • “Let’s Dunk to Ending Hunger,” Spector Group

Student teams

  • “Turn the Key on Hunger,” Friends Academy / Most CANtabulous (Juror’s Favorite) and Best CANfiguration
  • “We CAN Feed the World,” Sacred Heart Academy / Honorable Mention
  • “Lighting Up the World to Hunger Crisis,” Temple Israel of Riverhead Youth Group / Most Cans and Most CANtastic (Best Meal)
  • “Like Us to End Hunger,” Temple Sinai of Roslyn Youth Group / Best CANcept (Best Use of Labels)

Community group

  • “We Can’t BELLieve People Go Hungry in the U.S.,” Girl Scout Troop 4299 from Rocky Point and the Parent Action Community Youth Program of Amityville


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