Creating Art in the Fight Against Hunger

Creating Art in the Fight Against Hunger

Teaming with the American Institute of Architects and other members of the construction and design industry, this charity drive offers a creative way to give back to the community, in many communities in America and beyond. Teams are responsible for purchasing their own canned food and creating their own structures. All food raised is donated to their local food bank(s).

Canstructures are made entirely from canned foods within a 10’x10’x8’ space. It easily takes several thousand cans, sometimes up to 20,000 cans to create a canstructure.

 

 

 

 

 

What

 ​is

 ​CANstruction?  

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CANstruction is a nonprofit organization in the United States. This charity combines the competitive spirit of a design contest while meeting the needs to feed the hungry. This collaborative event is held in more than 100 cities across America, as well as in other cities, world-wide. It calls our attention to the pervasive issue of hunger in our communities.

It happens each year at about this time. This year, the designs were built on April 10 for display and public viewing all month, through today, April 29. By individual votes and an anonymous jury, the completed canstructures were judged for Best Design, People’s Choice, and other awards.

In my community, here in the greater area of Cincinnati, Ohio, seven downtown places participated. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was one place. I’m both happy and proud to work alongside great coworkers here at this library, who are passionate in this worthy cause.        

What​ ​is​ ​the​ ​impact​ ​of​ ​CANstruction?

This event raises awareness of the need for hunger relief. Many families and vulnerable individuals struggle when it comes to eating on a regular basis. Children who qualify for and receive reduced or free lunches at school, often go hungry on the weekends. More than 13-million American children live in households with uncertain access to food which supports a healthy life.

After the competition and exhibition, the structures are deconstructed, and all canned food is given to community food banks.

 

Volunteering at the Freestore Foodbank’s distribution center.

In my community, all cans are donated to the Freestore Foodbank, which operates nationwide and is part of the Feeding America organization. Feeding America is the national association of affiliated food banks. It is the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community local food pantries in every state of America, bridging gaps.

Resources:

While CANstruction is over for this year, there are other ways to help. Link to Freestore Foodbank and Feeding America for volunteer opportunities.

Links:

Freestore Foodbank

Feeding America

CANstruction on Facebook

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County on Facebook with Post on CANstruction.

Videos of Interest:

This first video was published prior to the event. It is narrated, explaining how to participate in the CANstruction. While locality specific, it is informative and brief, at just under 4 minutes.

For a time-lapsed viewing of creating a canstructure, check out this even shorter video:

Did you visit any Canstructures on display this year? How do you feel about the fight against hunger? I’d love to hear your comments.                        -Elle-

 

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Community of Stories

Annually in the spring, the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), here in Cincinnati, offers a creative writing workshop, Community of Stories (preregistration required.)

Yesterday was their fifth annual event of Community of Stories and my fourth year attending. Setting aside writing rules, this event’s focus is to share our diverse perspectives and life stories. It joins a cross-section of our community as we come together as one with hope, support, and encouragement.

Under the guidance of writing mentors, we divvied up into small groups, each with about ten people. We had groups in poetry, fiction, and I participated in the memoir group. Comprised with many students from its school and area high-schools, this event is open to the community.

Our day encompassed writing prompts, quiet time for writing, then sharing our writing with open discussion. I’m amazed how these young students can make a first draft look like a third draft. My writing feels choppy to me if I compare myself. Rather, I realize my writing is but a jumping off point for me. More so, I learn so much from these students. Their views of our society and community, their hopes and dreams, and their desire for growth in themselves and others is an inspiration to me.

Following this group time, we all came together in the school’s auditorium. Those who wished to, shared their writing from the podium.

Each year following this Community of Stories event, SCPA publishes a chap book. Those who wish too, have their writing included in this literary journal. And each year, we wait patiently for this journal, which comes out in print shortly before our next annual get-together.

My contributions to the Community of Stories literary journals include:

2015

A Community of Stories: Seeds of Change

“Sun Catcher.”

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2016

A Community of Stories: Dream of Change

“Who?” (fictionalized memoir).

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2017

A Community of Stories: On the Wings of Change

“Transformation is About Becoming Who I Am” (reflective essay).

(and)  “Forest” (poem co-written with Isa Walker).

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2018

A Community of Stories: Speaking Our Silences

(Editor’s choice, to be determined).

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A big thank you to those who shared their day with me! -Elle-

 

 

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“I Remember”

This writing warm-up is adapted from Joe Brainard’s “I Remember.” (Granary Books 2001).

A few excerpts from this author’s book are:

  • I remember how much I used to stutter.
  • I remember Aunt Cleora who lived in Hollywood. Every year for Christmas, she sent my brother and me a joint present of one book.
  • I remember shower curtains with angel fish on them.
  • I remember one very hot summer day I put ice cubes in my aquarium and all the fish died.

Details from our memories often evoke more than mere facts. Reading that his fish died, I felt sad for those fish and sad for this author as a little boy. I feel he wanted to do good only for it to be the wrong thing to do. I want to know more about these fish. How long did he have them? What color where these fish? Were they goldfish?

From this list of “I remember” choose one.

  • Focus on details of these memories while recalling them.
  • Describe what is happening.
  • Show feelings during the unfolding event.
  • Was there any reaction to the event?

The “I remember” is a way to dig into the experience. We don’t want to just scratch at the surface. We want this memory to pop so that it affects our readers. By developing our own take-away from this event, our description will help us avoid clichés and blanketed statements.

Joe Brainard’s I Remember is a literary and artistic cult classic. As an autobiography, his method was brilliantly simple. He shared specific memories as they rose to the surface of his consciousness, each prefaced by the refrain “I remember.”

Like Brainard’s pieces in his book, we can keep each “I remember” piece short, at a few sentences. We can also expand further, treating this as the start to a longer piece.

Yesterday, I participated in the Community of Stories through the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), here in Cincinnati. Under the guidance of a writing mentor, and in a group setting, the above warm-up was one of our writing exercises.

Here is my “I remember” list from yesterday:

  • I remember being alone in the dark without my candy.
  • I remember being proud of a woman going into space. Sitting on the hardwood floor, I watched my TV, seeing the rocket go up. Then, the next moment I was devasted when the Challenger exploded.
  • I remember the sensors wrapped on my fingers seemed to tighten when the needle moved further than before, displaying a peaked line on the graph paper which kept spitting out of the machine.
  • I remember the stranger who walked up to my tent on a Tuesday morning. He told me of terrorist planes hitting the Twin Towers. My kindly stranger was as puzzled as me.
  • I remember Andrea’s firm handshake was warm when I was hired for my library job.

This “I remember” warm-up reminds me that memories are not as fixed as we might assume. Memories are more fluid and then become fixed when they are recorded and supplemented with details.

Which “I remember” memory will you write about? -Elle-

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Home

HOME FOR WOMEN IN NEED

Ahead are the front doors of The Esther Marie Hatton Center and Shelterhouse for Women. Rain is in the air on this overcast day. Two women are sitting at a table, talking, in the courtyard I pass by. They look up and smile. I smile back. Inside, more women are congregating. Some are in the computer room, which has see-through glass walls. Some are waiting for dinner, more than an hour away. This place is their home.

The place sparkles with cleanliness. After checking in with staff, I join my friends in the kitchen. Savory spaghetti sauce is simmering on the stove top. Two of my friends have their hands in a big bowl of hamburger meat mixed with onions and stuff. I wash my hands then dig in to help make meatballs.

 

DINNER AND MORE

 

Come dinner time, women residents line up at our kitchen counter, eager for their home-cooked meal. We made so much spaghetti that there was enough for seconds for everyone. These women, each in their own way thanked us with words of heart-felt gratitude.

I’m thankful that today I have a home and I know I can eat when I want to eat. I’m thankful they invited me into their home, letting me help them. You see, I haven’t always had what I have today.

 

A fact sheet on the website for Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition,  says nearly 6000 women in my community are homeless.

 

This shelterhouse encourages and empowers those without resources to move from homelessness and destitution to shelter and stability.

If only I had this place to come to when I was down on my luck. But, I wasn’t in Cincinnati then. I was out west and in a town that only helped men.

I survived my hard luck times by putting one foot in front of the other (literally, ending up here). Any resources I could get back then were invaluable. As my friends and I joined these women, as part of the Feed the Need Program, it gave me a means to give back.

More than just meals, this place does so much more. On an individual basis to sixty women, it offers a social support system and connection to community services. And housing assistance and aftercare services. Medical care, too are part of the services, provided by a community area clinic (Deaconess Health Check Clinic) and other supporting health professionals.

 

HOW TO HELP

 

Nationwide, there are no less than 4000 shelters. We have a lot of homeless people in America. Too many! A great resource for discovering where in your community could use a helping hand is the website for Homeless Shelter Directory.

From its front page, click on the map, picking out your state. From there you will be taken to a page which lists not only places in need, but also the contact details.

 

HOME

 

The sun is out. It’s the morning after helping out at The Esther Marie Hatton Center and Shelterhouse for Women. Spring is finally here. My drapes are open. Birds are feeding in the bird-feeders right outside a window on my bright yellow doll-house.

My pet finches chatter back when the outside birds cackle. We had scrambled eggs for breakfast—I spoil my finches—they love their egg casserole with a hint of honey and crumbled egg shells. Across the street is a lake. Ducks squawk, also happy its finally spring-time. -Elle-

 

RESOURCES

The Esther Marie Hatton Center and Shelterhouse for Women, Cincinnati.

Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition

Homeless Shelter Directory, a nation-wide resource.

What does home mean to you? Please share.

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