Canstruction 2018



A community competition to end hunger

By Brianna Kraft

April 25, 2018— On Monday, I had the opportunity to participate in this year’s Canstruction Madison build day as a design expert. The annual event benefits Middleton Outreach Ministries (MOM), which is one of Dane County’s largest food pantries. The event is MOM’s largest food drive of the year and raises awareness about ending hunger and homelessness. I was first introduced to Madison’s version of the nationwide Canstruction event in 2016 when I was asked to serve as a judge for the event. The judges are usually professionals in any design-related field. After having a ton of fun as a judge for the event, I was happy to be paired with a local business this year to volunteer my design services to come up with a rock and roll themed can structure.

There were 17 teams from area schools, churches, and businesses building structures throughout West Towne Mall on Monday out of non-perishable food items.  The theme for this year was Rock ‘Can’ Roll. The displays ranged from a jukebox to portraits of music industry cancer survivors.

See all the structures here

Nearly 50,000 cans total were used! All of the food will later be donated to the pantry, which distributes more than 100,000 pounds of food per month.

“Canstruction® not only brings friends and colleagues together to give back while team building but is an opportunity for the community to see how people can come together to benefit those in need. Each can is food for families and another step towards ending hunger.”

— Shirley Nennig, MOM Distribution Center Manager


Although we built the structure on Monday, the design process started weeks ago.

I worked with Fiskars, a local business in Middleton, to develop a design concept for the can structure. The iconic orange Fiskars scissors were to be the focal point of the structure and then the theme “rock, paper, scissors” came to mind. The final design represents a piece of sheet music sitting at the base of the upright scissors and the Fiskars company name. Many thanks to Fiskars for donating more than 1,600 cans of food for the structure.

There are several design guidelines that we had to follow. For example, you are not allowed to cover up the labels on the cans or use any materials that will damage the labels, so the color of the can label becomes the most important aspect of the design.

MOM works with local grocers to order large quantities of cans in the colors required to emulate the design concept. In our case, cans of pink salmon represented the Fiskars orange scissors.

Other canned goods that were used in our structure were Manwich, canned tuna, green beans, sweet peas, and mixed vegetables.

To develop the initial structure, I used Sketchup, which is a 3D modeling program we use every day at JLA.  This program allowed me to model each can in the specific colors necessary to achieve our design concept (see left).


We were at the West Towne Mall for most of the day building the structure. The team helping me consisted of about 6 volunteers from MOM—the build could not have happened without their help!

Since this was my first time building a structure out of cans, I was concerned about how the cans would stack and be structurally stable, but the cans stacked very neatly on top of one another and everything went as smooth as possible. Between every four rows of cans we used white foam core to add to the structural integrity of the can structure.  The finishing touches of the silver cans representing the scissor blades were added very carefully using a ladder.



The structures will be available for viewing and voting at West Towne Mall main throughout the week of April 23rdWant to see who wins?  Attend the Awards Ceremony at 6:30pm in the West Towne Mall Food Court on Sunday, April 29.  Teams will be given awards in the following categories:

    • Most Cans
    • Most Nutritious
    • Best Use of Labels
    • Structural Ingenuity
    • Youth Award
    • Judge’s Choice
    • People’s Choice


There are 3 ways to cast your vote for “People’s Choice Award”:

  • “Like” the team’s image on the event’s Facebook page
  • Text message the team’s keyword to 444222. For example, our team’s keyword is “FISKARS”
  • In-person at West Towne Mall

All votes must be submitted before 12 noon this Sunday (April 29).






MOM is always looking for volunteers and design experts to fill roles leading up to and during the annual Canstruction event. Volunteer opportunities range from unloading food items, breaking down boxes, collecting recyclables, offering design expertise, sponsorship of a can structure, or hosting a Canstruction team. Volunteer opportunities at the Food Pantry itself are also available, and as always, consider donating food items to the pantry throughout the year.

If you are interested in volunteering for Canstruction Madison 2019, please contact MOM’s Special Events Manager Elaine Bogen at


NBC15: “Canstruction Helps End Hunger”

Wisconsin State Journal: “Canstruction Helps Feed Those In Need”


Learn more about Middleton Outreach Ministries (MOM) here: