Tulane Students Compete In Creative Food Drive

December 29, 2002

Megan Cook, <i>Hullabaloo</i> Contributing Writer

Whoever thought that canned food could be used as a mechanism in the teaching of a subject? Well, that is just what happened when Architecture students participated in "CANstruction," a program created to collect food for food banks around the country. Instead of having the typical food drive, CANstruction asks that a group contribute a three dimensional object made solely out of non-perishable food items. It is no wonder that architects, engineers, and even students are eager to participate in such a design-oriented event.

Although New Orleans has participated in CANstruction for many years, this year was the most successful mostly because of participation of Tulane students. For second year architecture students, CANstruction began early this semester as a project in their structures lab. Proposed by the professor as a project that would teach lessons in masonry construction, lateral stability, and numerous other structural principles, students were excited to learn that a few select projects would even be able to compete at the New Orleans competition.

When Professor Elizabeth English saw the level of creativity on the part of the students, she was encouraged to search for sponsorship so that more projects could be built. Thus began the long process of searching for funding, after class meetings, and many late night hours in order to organize such a big project in so little time.

The results? Tulane students, including a civil engineering team, contributed nine out of the twenty projects and won 3 out of 5 awards that were given. Designs spanned a range of ideas from recreations of famous buildings with "The Leaning Tower of Peas-A" to "Chex-Mate", a chess board made from Chex cereal boxes.

Awards included Jurors Favorite that went to the project contributed by AIAS, Peoples Choice given to "A Mouthful of Mondrian", a prize for Structural Ingenuity for "CANaissance", and an honorable mention for "Civil CANgineering." Many sponsors helped contribute to the success of the program. Dole packaged foods was responsible for one entire project, "Crescent City", which was made entirely of pineapple cans.

Save-A-Center Food Market, Charrette Prographics, and donations from the School of Architecture helped create "The Birthplace of Jazz", and even Meister Middle School Beta Club donated enough to create a huge Gumby, dubbed "Gumbo Gumby" because of its ingredients. Other sponsors included the Construction Specifications Institute, New Orleans Chapter, the Dean of the Architecture school, Don Gatzke, and even a few private architecture firms, including Lee Ledbetter Architects and George Calomiris, AIA.

The food raised by CANstruction totaled 57, 032 pounds of food and was donated to Second Harvester food banks. The food, which amounts to 45, 636 meals, will be distributed around the greater New Orleans area. Jenny Rogers showed her appreciation for participants on the part of Second Harvester Food Bank.

Rogers said, " I hope that putting your tremendous impact on this community in these sorts of terms conveys just how grateful Second Harvesters and our clients are for your commitment to fighting hunger."

The greatest benefit of the program was, of course, raising food for needy people. But for many Architecture and Civil Engineering students, it was a chance to learn lessons of structure stability, which were, at times, learned the hard way. Quotes from an interview with Professor English about the whole project present many of the feelings that all who participated in the project agree.

English made a point to stress the importance of the structural lessons learned, but went on to say that she was "extraordinarily proud of what (her) students achieved and the great success of the projects when judged alongside projects done by professional architects."

When asking her about the process of organizing the program and its successes overall, English stated that "If I had known ahead of time how much work it would be, I still would have done it because the rewards were so great."

These rewards involved not only the 7 tons of food (not counting the weight of cans) that Tulane students alone contributed, but also the opportunity of professor/student interaction. Students, who devoted many hours outside their normal curriculum to the project, also had many positive comments to make on CANstruction.

"Not only was CANstruction a great opportunity to help out less privileged members of the community but also brings together people of similar interest in a unique environment" said Jessi Gramkco, sophomore in the school of architecture sophomore.

"CANstruction was great, it gave me the opportunity to meet other architects from around the city and unwind at the gala," Joel Ross, School of Architecture sophomore, said. "The whole experience was wonderful, but I wouldn't recommend having a group that consists entirely of girls ever again," Blythe Woodward, sophomore at the School of Architecture, said.

The experiences shared during CANstruction by participants added to the programs success and have created a stronger bond between the faculty and students within the architecture school.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000