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HIDDEN GEM: Canstruction Houston

Canstruction is canned food like you've never seen it before.

HOUSTON — As we approach the holidays, organizations of all sizes help the Houston Food Bank feed our neighbors in need. Thanks to one Hidden Gem, you can be a part of a unique and creative canned food drive through Nov. 12.

"It’s so exciting because you never know what you’re going to see. We have everything from characters, to hope, to sports teams," said Carla Curtis-Galyean, president of Canstruction Houston, Inc. 

Canstruction is canned food like you've never seen it before. For 26 years, local design firms and students build their best sculptures out of cans of beans, corn, soup ... you name it!

"We start recruiting in July for the teams. They have to come up with their designs by mid-September," Curtis-Galyean explained.

It takes from September to early November for Canstruction and sponsor, Kroger, to collect the specific cans needed for the creations. You see, they're the paint palette for the projects.

"It’s all based on the labels of the cans, so the teams are very specific in what they’re sourcing," Curtis-Galyean said. "That can throw off their design if they can’t get it."

It was definitely part of the challenge for the Alief Early College High School team.

"Having to make the labels go with the right color, make it so you could actually see the Buc-ee’s logo," said senior Melanie Cometa when asked what one of the hardest parts of building Flush Away Hunger was.

RELATED: Never too young to help | Teen volunteers putting in work at Houston Food Bank

On build day, they bring those designs to life, one can at a time.

"Something that makes our sculpture unique is we don’t use any supports, so it’s all cans on top of each other," said AECHS teammate Ashanty Garcia. "It’s kind of difficult because you have to angle them right. You have to make sure that the weight is proportioned accurately."

The goal is to use as many cans as possible because when all is said and done, these sculptures will be decommissioned and donated to the Houston Food Bank.

"This is an event the food bank really relies upon for the holiday program. That’s why we time it right before Thanksgiving," Curtis-Galyean said. "Just with the cans we’ve collected for the structures, we’re close to 70,000 cans."

So, Canstruction feeds hungry families by inspiring kids to get creative. 

"We’re happy. We’re relieved," Garcia said after her team finished the build. "We think we have a chance of winning this year. It looks really good."

RELATED: Food insecurity leads to 30% jump in demand at Houston Food Bank

It does – and they did win – for Best Use of Labels. Other cansculptures took home awards for Structural Ingenuity, Original Design, Best Meal and Most Cans.

There’s still one award left: People’s Choice! This is where you come in. Through Nov. 12, all the Canstruction creations will be on display at Understory in downtown Houston. You can check them out in person, then go online to vote for your favorite. The sculpture with the most votes will be awarded People's Choice on Nov. 13.

Before You Leave, Check This Out