While many students learned at a young age not to play with their food, the UT Social Work Organization not only enjoys doing it but has gotten pretty good at it.
So good, in fact, that it has an award to prove it. So fun that they do it every year. And it's all to help feed the hungry in East Tennessee.
Dubbed "Canstruction," the event is part of national charity competition in which participating organizations use canned goods and other non-perishable food items to construct elaborate structures. Each organization is responsible for providing its own food, which is then donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank after the competition. This was the Social Work Organization's fifth year in the competition, and it is the only UT organization that participates.
With help from a local architect, SWO participants went for an ambitious structure.
"We built a castle," Jill Youngson, SWO fundraising chair, said. "It was like the movie 'Camelot,' but we made our structure 'Canalot'. And then at the bottom of it, it says 'Defense Against Hunger.'"
It was a construction project not untouched by setbacks. When part of the castle collapsed in, "we had to tear it down and put cardboard in-between the layers," Katie Huffman, SWO advocacy chair, said.
But after nearly 12 hours of labor, the team completed the castle along with a working draw bridge, a flag and even green grass made from split peas. In the end, the team walked away with the title "Juror's Favorite".
"I just had a great time going out there and building it, hanging out with faculty and other students, and getting to know other students in the club that are maybe in a different class than myself," Youngson said.
Actual construction of the castle was only part of a larger team effort, consisting of both students and faculty, that went into the competition. About 20 to 30 SWO members held a bake sale on campus last week to raise money for the event. Proceeds from the bake sale were used to purchase food items from Kroger, which provided the food at wholesale prices. Other SWO members were involved in shuttling the food from Kroger to the mall, and still others will be involved in the dismantling of the structure today so that the food can be donated to Second Harvest.
"I wish more organizations at UT got involved, because I think it's really great, and it's fun. There's so many organizations at UT that could participate in this and really help Second Harvest out," Huffman said. "I mean, I'm proud to be a member of SWO and be the one (organization) from UT to do it, but I think with all the other organizations we could help out so much more."
The annual Canstruction competition is just a fragment of the work the Social Work Organization does, Youngson said.
"We set up a booth for voter registration, we went to 'Take Back the Night,'" Youngson said. "We basically do any sort of community outreach that we can get our hands on and volunteer at."
This involvement includes year-round community service, fundraisers and volunteering at Second Harvest and other organizations, such as the Emerald Youth Foundation.
More information on the national Canstruction competition can be found at http://www.canstruction.org. Information about Second Harvest can be found at http://www.secondharvestknox.org.