Cans aplenty to feed the hungry


A second West Hudson public school district has successfully taken on the challenge of collecting perishable foods for the hungry in the community.

Harrison’s Washington Middle School sixth- , seventhand eighth-graders partnered with freshmen from Harrison High School’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) program to develop a three-structure Canstruction project.

Canstruction is a national charity that promotes the construction of giant structures made up of stacks of full cans of food which, after being publicly displayed, are distributed to community-based hunger relief facilities.

In that spirit, kids from grades 6 and 7 created a giant “beehive,” which, sixth-grader Daniel Carvalheiro, 12, patiently explained to visitors viewing the finished product earlier this month, represents a period of time when the town promoted itself as “beehive of industry,” hosting plants like General Electric, Otis Elevator and Hartz Mountain, among others, but still continues to claim the PATH rail station and PSE&G.

And so, the beehive structure – consisting of cans containing sliced olives, alternating with corned beef hash, resting on a base made of cans with green beans, peas, corn and carrots – is complete with replicas of a factory (cans of pork and beans), a train running on tracks made of sticks of licorice, with the Passaic River (cans of Goya beans) running through it.

Lest we forget, sixth-grader Destiny Chan, 11, reminded us that the Passaic has long formed a border for the town’s factories and transportation.

Whirling around the top of the exhibit were a bunch of motorized flying “bees.”

Altogether, the beehive composite accounted for 2,600 cans, according to the student creators.

Eighth-graders contributed the “canned” version of the Harrison Blue Tide wave symbol, the logo for the town’s scholastic athletic teams. Cans of corn formed a sandy beach; Goya beans and ravioli cans were deployed to create the main structure; and cans of tuna adorned the top of the structure.

During the Civil War, it was part of the Union Army’s “Northern Wave,” outfitted in their blue uniforms, that marched through Harrison, noted seventh-grader Andrea DeOliveira, 12.

Ninth-grade STEM students built the Medieval Blue Tide Castle, with a miniature “Cinderella” waiting behind a facsimile castle gate. Cans of Goya chick peas and beans were stacked to form the castle infrastructure, whose turrets were cans of tuna.

An estimated 2,000 cans were likely used for each of the Blue Tide wave and Medieval Tides Castle structures, the students said.

About $6,000 was raised from community donations to pay for the cans of food which were spread among pantries operated by Holy Cross parish in Harrison, the Salvation Army of Greater Kearny and St. John’s in Newark.

Primary sponsors of the Harrison Canstruction project were: Harrison Education Foundation, ShopRite of Kearny, Valley National Bank, Ferreira Construction Co., Pioneer Boys of America, Harrison Mayor James Fife, Johnston Communications, Harrison/East Newark Elks, J. Supor and Son Trucking and Walmart.

Other contributors included: Kidz Academy Harrison, Harrison Lions Club, Condon Memorial Home, Harrison Pediatric Care Center, PIC-NIC Restaurant, The Study Hall, La Fiamma Restaurant, The Children’s Studio, Campbell Foundry Co., P.J. Chinatown Restaurant, Myles F. Kelly Inc., William and Semira Mount, Eugene P. Gelshen, Spanish Pavilion and Schuyler Savings Bank.

Cynthia Baumgartner, district curriculum director, was the overall coordinator for the Canstruction project in Harrison.

– Ron Leir 

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