By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — Using 3,340 canned foods, 12 employees at Cube 3 Studio designed “A Reel Meal.”
The play on words was part of Canstruction, a design and building competition by architects, engineers, and designers who made sculptures completely out of canned goods to benefit the Merrimack Valley Food Bank.
This year’s theme is “Cinema and Movies” with all artwork focusing on images and characters from the silver screen, said Maria Salvatierra, the firm’s marketing manager.
Led by captain Ben Scott, Cube 3 Studio created a theater complete with a movie screen and seats by coordinating the fire roasted tomatoes in the curtains and the tomato sauce in the chairs. The cans were stacked together with plywood. The team even made a time lapse video of themselves at work, which is shown on the theater screen. The 1-1/2 minute video even has credits at the end.
Scott said they had other ideas including; an Oscar Award, a scene from the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz movie, a movie reel and a bucket of pop corn and a soft drink cup. In the end, the movie theater idea won.
“We wanted to stick with an iconic representation of the movies,” Scott said.
Scott said Cube 3 Studios came up with the idea in August. They first created a three-dimensional computer model of the movie theater and added the different color labels to see how the finished sculpture would look like. They completed the sculpture in six hours.
“It wasn’t hard to build because we used the computer model and it went up smoothly. It was more fun than anything else,” Scott said.
In previous years, Cube 3 Studio made financial contributions to Canstruction. This is the second year they participated in the actual event.
“We like to get involved in our local community and help the people that do business with us and we serve as well,” Scott said.
This is the 18th year Boston Society of Architects has held the competition All the canned goods are supplied by the teams and coordinated through Stop & Shop.
In turn, the Food Bank will distribute the canned goods to local agencies including Lazarus House, Neighbors in Needs in Lawrence; Pregnancy Care Center, Salvation Army, Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, all of Haverhill; Changing Lives Christian Church and Fidelity House in Methuen as well as other food programs in Newburyport, Amesbury, Salisbury, and the New Hampshire towns of Salem, and Windham.
Amy Pessia, executive director of the Merrimack Valley Food Bank could not be happier.
“This is literally a dream come true,” Pessia said, adding, when she started working at the food bank in 2002, she had seen the sculptures online or in photographs only.
“I dreamed of being able to receive that many cans of food and I admired the talent that went into creating those sculptures,” Pessia said.
Then, in 2011, the Boston Society of Architects were looking for a new food bank to partner with after donating the canned goods to the Boston organization.
“We were elated and incredibly blessed to partner with them,” Pessia said.
She said Merrimack Valley Food Bank distributes 60,000 monthly through food pantries and soup kitchens throughout Greater Lawrence, the North Shore and Southern New Hampshire.
Once the sculptures are dismantled on Nov. 1, the Merrimack Valley Food Bank located in Lowell will receive more than 80,000 canned goods, Pessia said.
“The donation represents the largest we’ll receive this year and because of the variety of food, we’ll be able to reserve some for those time of year when we really need it,” Pessia said. She pointed to January through March and during the summer months when students are not in school getting breakfast and lunch and families struggle to put food on the table.
Previous donations from Constructions were more than 50,000 cans in 2011 and 58,000 cans in 2012.
Local food pantries are also grateful about the donations.
“Wow this is mind boggling,” said Betsy Tombarelli, who distributes food to 30 or 40 families through the pantry at West Congregational Church in Haverhill. “Anything that benefits the food bank to feed needy families is always welcomed, especially with the economy the way it is,” she said.
“To think of all the pantries that serve so many people every week this is a big help. (Feeding the hungry) is not something we could ignore. We’re very blessed to have people and businesses donate to us. We’re lucky and blessed to have that support,” Tombarelli said.
“I love it. I think it’s wonderful and I wish companies would do it knowing that the food is staying local, “ said Linda Zimmerman, executive director of Neighbors in Need which has pantries in Lawrence and Methuen.
“The need for food is so bad and the demand is incredibly high,” Zimmerman said.
She has seen 25 percent increase of new families coming for food since last year.
In September, she distributed 2,500 bags of groceries. In addition to the regular clients, she said IRS workers on furlough due to the government shutdown and people who have never been to a food pantry before needed supplemental food.
“There hasn’t been a recovery for the poor, which impacts the people at the bottom,” she said.
Food pantry coordinators including Ken Campbell said September and October are always difficult for them to restock their shelves after the summer lull when they don’t get many donations due to vacations. It is also hard to catch up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
“Last week we went over 1,000 families for the first time,” said Campbell, coordinator for Lazarus House, Inc.
“One of the things we’re definitely seen is people whose unemployment extensions have run out and they don’t have anything,” Campbell said.
”Any time someone’s hours are cut, their benefits reduced and your right on the edge as far as not having enough money, people become desperate, stressed and concerned, so they find it necessary to come to a food pantry,” Campbell said.
Canstruction designs on display What: Canstruction Boston 2013 When: through Nov. 1, 5 p.m. Where: Boston Society of Architects, Atlantic Wharf, Boston. Cost: Free. Number of canned items used for "A Reel Meal" Stop & Shop whole kennel, Sweet corn, 250 cans; Stop & Shop black beans, 250 cans; Stop & Shop black eyed peas, 250 cans; Stop & Shop whole white potatoes, 320 cans; Stop & Shop tuna, 60 cans; Goya chick peas, 200 cans;Goya red kidney beans, 180 cans; Hunts fire roasted tomatoes, 310 cans; and Red pack tomato sauce, 1,520 cans. Food items needed at local pantries Rice, soups, stew, canned fruit, peanut butter, jelly, oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of rice, Ramadan noodles, fruit juices, cake and muffin mixes, canned spaghetti, cookies, Enfamil baby formula, baby food, cereal, paper towel, toilet paper, shampoo and conditioners, soap and laundry detergent.