by Evan Duggan
VANCOUVER, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- Balancing on top of ladders, two volunteers placed cans of kidney beans onto the top of an 8-foot-tall (2.4-meter-tall) tree sculpture made entirely from canned food in a local shopping center.
The tree stood next to a massive black and yellow beehive made from cans of tuna and beans, both for the annual "canstruction" competition at the shopping center in the east of Vancouver.
The event is a major fundraiser and food drive for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, and is part of an international charity that raises food and money for food banks in more than 160 cities worldwide.
In the competition, teams of architects, engineers, designers and students come together to build structures made of canned and non-perishable food products.
Over 1.3 million cans of food have been collected since the event was set up in Vancouver several years ago.
This year's "canstruction" began on Saturday with 10 teams building various structures and sculptures from cans of tuna, soup, beans and other food.
Each team had 12 hours to complete their structures as shoppers stopped by and took photos. The displays will remain in the mall until Nov. 11. Then the food will be taken to the local food bank.
Each team had to use materials following a strict list that includes only non-perishable and healthy food.
"There are over 4,000 cans in the sculpture," said Nikki Johnston, who was working on the beehive sculpture with her team from a Vancouver-based structural engineering firm called Fast + Epp and Simon Fraser University.
"We came up with the idea of a beehive," she told Xinhua. "Inside the hive, we have our queen bee sitting on the throne and we've got a bunch of bees sticking out that are made from Mrs. Dash (spice jars). We want to keep everything food-oriented and as nutritious as possible. We're not allowed to use candy."
Behind her, the display was taking shape. The queen bee sat inside the massive domed hive. Her torso was a large can of beans and the designers used black pipe-cleaners for her antenna and jacket stripes.
The leaves of the tree are made with green tea, Johnston said.
"We've been some busy bees today, trying to get this up and running," she said.
"We think it's really important not just being a company, an organization that contributes to building our cities, but also being socially responsible," she said.
Elsewhere in the mall, another team had set up a "Smurf Village," inspired by the animated show. Next to that display was a "Whoville" village from the Christmas classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
The Greater Vancouver Food Bank is expecting the event to bring in about 45,000 cans of food this year, said Jodie Ou, an event coordinator from the food bank.
She added that a lot of the food used is from public donation by individuals and a local grocery store chain.
"We have 10 teams building since 7:00 a.m.," she said. "They ordered food from Save-On-Foods (a chain of supermarkets), designed their structures and then built it. Only five people are allowed to be building at once."
Many people think of Vancouver as a rich city, but figures show that every week, there are over 27,000 people in the Vancouver region who have to depend on food from the food bank, Ou said.
"That's a large number of people that we are helping," she said. "Our shelves are actually quite empty, so we are trying to do big events to raise awareness of people for the food bank. It's been quite tough."
She said awards will be handed out at the end of the competition for "the most nutritious display," "the best teamwork," "the overall best design" and more. Shoppers can vote for their favorite ones after making donations to the food bank at the mall.