Canstruction Competition to Benefit REFB
By Cat Neushul
Teams from CalSERVES, Sonoma County Day School, ZFA Structural Engineers and Wright Construction and Healdsburg Junior High School are creating sculptures entirely from canned food at Coddingtown Mall as part of a fun competition highlighting the need for year-round food donations and the ongoing issue of hunger in Sonoma County.
The Canstruction competition is hosted by the Network for a Healthy California—Northcoast Region (Network) and the Redwood Empire Food Bank and sponsored by Whole Foods to inspire Sonoma County residents to continue helping their community by donating food. The sculptures will be built April 14 and will remain on display in the mall courtyard through April 27.
The public is invited to attend a special family event at the mall from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 27. Network staff will lead children in nutrition-themed games and physical relays. Parents can take home free cookbooks full of healthy recipes. Community leaders will judge the sculptures for their originality, size and nutritional content and award prizes. The public is encouraged to bring a canned item to donate and to help select a sculpture as the “people’s choice” by casting ballots at the displays.
Each sculpture will contain at least 500 cans, and when the creations come down April 27, all cans will go to the Food Bank, which feeds 78,000 people in Sonoma County each month.
"Last year’s Canstruction event brought in over 20,000 cans for the Redwood Empire Food Bank,” said Jimmy Scales, manager of Coddingtown Mall. “It’s a great community celebration and I’m proud we can host it.” Scales added that the mall’s Kidgits program will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on April 27, the same day as the Canstruction event. Kidgits is a company-wide program with Simon Malls in which children can take part in special activities and events. For example, in April, members can get a free ice cream cone at the mall’s Baskin-Robbins. “One of the activities we have planned for the anniversary is viewing the awards ceremony for Canstruction,” Scales said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the kids to learn what’s going on and to understand how we’re all uniting as a community.”
The Network and Redwood Empire Food Bank strive to increase residents’ access to healthy foods and physical activity. Eating more fruits and vegetables and being active each day may help reduce the risk of developing serious health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Low-income residents are at an increased risk for developing these types of chronic diseases.
“Depending on the time of year, it can sometimes be difficult to find affordable produce,” said Jennifer McClendon, project director for the Network’s Northcoast Region. “Canned fruits and vegetables are a cost-effective way to eat healthy year-round.”
The Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB), Sonoma County’s largest hunger-relief organization for over 25 years, collects food from local, regional and national sources and distributes it to 78,000 people in need every month in Sonoma County. Over 13 million pounds of food is distributed annually, which is the equivalent of over 28,000 meals each day.
Of the people who receive help from the Food Bank, 34,000 are children, 11,300 are seniors, and 13,500 are working families. The median monthly household income of food recipients is $930. Ten percent of Sonoma County residents lived in poverty in 2010, according to the most recent data from the California Food Advocates.