What’s the deal with… …the cans at 2000 Penn?

“A beacon of hope has arisen among a sea of cans. A strong -willed fighter has emerged whose single goal is to destroy this wicked monster. A robot in disguise that is our saving grace. He is energized to transform hungry stomachs into full bellies.”

This may sound like a quote from the recent Transformers movie. That’s not quite right, but it’s not far off the mark either. It is actually from one of two transformers recently brought to life inside the Shops at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., just feet away from unsuspecting GW students eating at Au Bon Pain or La Prima. However, unlike their computer-generated brethren in the movies, these red, blue and silver objects are made of canned vegetables. Their mission, along with their 14 counterparts of various shapes and sizes, is simply to sit around Saturday so that anyone passing by can help them feed hungry people in our city.

The assorted transformers and sailboats, space shuttles and lattes, Pooh Bears and Pez dispensers, among others are part of a project called “Can-struction.” The same architects, engineers, and contractors who normally build the offices and apartments we pass every day built these figures in about six hours. For the last nine years, this has been one of a number of community outreach projects run by the Washington Architectural Foundation.

The project is meant to “use a creative platform to raise the issue of hunger in the District,” said Beth Judy, a spokesperson for the foundation.

Teams from a number of Washington firms volunteer to design an object of their choice. Then, they buy canned food at a discount rate from Giant Supermarkets and put it together with tape and cardboard during a Saturday night construction spree.

After the end of competition this weekend, de-Can-struction will begin and all of this brightly colored food will be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank.

Toriano Davis, Charles Morales and Ying Lam are architects at the firm BBG-BBCM. Last year their team won second place overall with their wishing well. This time, they used their know-how to create the larger-than-life head of a transformer. They said that it took them five of the allotted six hours after the whistle was blown to start construction. The group was happy that they could represent their firm for a good cause.

“It would be great to have our professional community set a standard for others to follow,” said Davis Toriano. If there are ever enough teams to make 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. feel crowded, “we’ll build the space to hold a bigger (competition) than this,” said Charles.

Over the past nine years, the project has collected more than 200 tons of food. Last year’s exhibition accounted for 49,805 pounds about 25 tons of that total, said Shamia Holloway, a spokesperson for the food bank. Holloway also said that while “every food drive is important, this one is unique because it raises awareness among a part of the city that may not be as involved with the food bank as often.” She also noted that it is a particularly big help because the summer and fall seasons often get far fewer donations than the even though holiday period, and the problem exists year round.

Entries compete in categories such as best meal, best use of labels, structural integrity and people’s choice.

In the best meal category, points are awarded to the structures that contain foods that could be most tastefully combined into a dinner.

However, the category that is of the most use to GW students ready to lend a helping hand is people’s choice. In this category, passersby can support their favorites and give to the hungry by dropping canned goods into the boxes near each structure.

Sophomore Mike Belleville was one of a few students seen milling around near the sculptures during the lunch hour last week. He said that while many GW students see poverty around them every day, the sculptures do a good job of drawing attention to the problem. The sculptures are “much more appealing than just a box for a normal food drive,” he said.

Both the food bank and the architects involved said they hope that this is true and that if you have a few extra cans of soup to spare, you should come by to choose your favorite Can-struction before Saturday.

“What’s the deal with…” is a weekly feature in the Life section. If you have a suggestion for the column, e-mail features@gwhatchet.com.

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