You CAN make a difference

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It’s easy to make Mr. Potato Head smile and frown. You can make him look surprised or excited. You can even turn him into a woman.

And these days, a few extra pieces make the 60-year-old spud into Darth Vader or your favorite NFL player.

But can you make him out of cans?

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It may sound crazy, but it’s been done.

The Society for Design Administration hosts a contest called Canstruction. The world’s top architects, engineers and students of both, design and build structures made solely of canned food products.

And they’ve made a Mr. Potato Head.

But their elaborate designs don’t stop there. International winners from the most recent competition include an oversized panda sitting in a bamboo forest, The Cat in the Hat and a sinking Titanic.

Competitors spend 8 to 12 weeks crafting their entries and when it’s all over the cans go to local food banks.

Our newspaper is sponsoring a similar competition in the Miss-Lou, except you don’t have to be an architect, a designer or an engineer to participate.

The We CAN do it! challenge pits local businesses, schools, civic groups and churches against others in their category to raise canned goods, build a structure and earn enough votes to be crowned local champions.

We aren’t expecting any life-sized Mr. Potato Heads and we don’t want you to spend 8 weeks building it, but we do think some creative minds out there will surprise us with their work. (Need inspiration?

At the end of the contest — Jan. 29 — all the cans raised throughout the community will be taken to the Natchez Food Pantry and Feed the Hungry in Vidalia.

Several groups in the community are already collecting cans, but it’s not too late for you to start too. Participants so far include, West Primary School, Frazier Primary School, Trace City Kiwanis Club, Britton & Koontz Bank, Concordia Bank and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Individuals can drop off cans at any of the participating locations or at our office on Canal Street.

Participating teams have until Jan. 26 to collect cans. Jan. 27, 28 and 29 are structure-building days.

Teams are encouraged to get together during on one of these three days, build their structures and call our office at 601-442-9101 upon completion. We’ll send a photographer over to take a photo of your completed structure and help you disassemble it. We’ll take the cans then for distribution to the charities.

The photos will be published in the Jan. 31 edition of the newspaper.

Newspaper readers will be encouraged to pick a favorite structure from each category, and come by The Democrat office the following week — Feb. 1-5 — to cast their votes.

Votes will cost .50 cents each, and all proceeds from voting will go to the Stewpot.

In the end, a few teams can claim victory and receive a little free publicity. But the fun and games isn’t the important part.

The Natchez Food Pantry feeds 700 families a month.

Feed the Hungry feeds approximately 400 families, distributing 12,500 pounds of food a month.

And the Stewpot serves 300 lunches each day of the week.

Food and money aren’t easy for these organizations to come by — especially in a down economy and after the holiday season is over.

Taking a few extra minutes to bring a canned good to work, school or a participating location will make a difference for someone in need.

For the newspaper, this project is a part of Profile 2010 — Common Bonds.

What better way to bond with your neighbors than to offer a helping hand?

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or