Cranford Teens Complete World-Record Food Can Pyramid

Photo credit: Lori Fleissner Photography

Photo credit: Lori Fleissner Photography

CRANFORD—A group of teens from Cranford have set a new unofficial world record for the largest canned food pyramid.

The Cranford Teen Advisory Board, an official township-sanctioned committee, set the new line in the sky for others to beat, and they set it high – 25,585 cans at an astounding 15.75 foot. With a total weight of over 13.3 tons it now sits in the atrium of Cranford’s Community Center at 220 Walnut Avenue, Cranford. Originally scheduled to be dismantled this Wednesday, the demolition was postponed until Saturday due to the overwhelming popularity of onlookers and amateur photographers visiting the structure.

Next to the stacked cans is a flat screen monitor that shows a time lapsed video of the team of 20 plus Cranford teens working with accuracy and diligence as they toiled for nearly 13 hours to assemble the pyramid. Adult leaders Martha Garcia and Mark Dingelstedt remarked about the maturity and focus to detail that the young group displayed for all to see

The journey to the record began during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. “I asked the kids to bring an idea for new activity to our next meeting,” Dingelstedt said. “Mae Adubato could not attend so she texted me the idea about Food Collection. I brought it to group at meeting and they all were in favor of it. At that point Ian Winter suggested the record attempt for the World’s Largest Canned Food Pyramid.”

“We had been trying to come up with a world record idea since last year,” Dingelstedt explained. “The current holder was an architectural firm from Missouri that stacked an impressive 17,575 cans.  With that mark in their sights the Teen Advisory Board TAB started their collection process. They set up collection stations all over town, in every school and church, as well as many local businesses. The TAB kids circulated throughout the town collecting the cans weekly.”

“After months of hard collecting they had reached an impressive 8,000 cans, only to be informed that Guinness would require that all cans must be the exact same size,” Dingelstedt said. “This would disqualify nearly half of their collected cans. Although a major setback, the search now became more intense. The group showed incredible resolve and surged forward. Two local charitable organizations, The Cranford Jaycees and The Cranford Knight of Columbus, lifted the spirits of the group with major cash donations that the group used to purchase canned foods from Shoprite.”

“This caught the attention of Wakefern Food Corporation, the parent Company of Shoprite who saw the spirit of this young group and extended a hand of charity with a donation of 20,000 additional cans through their philanthropic arm Shoprite Partners in Caring,” Dingelstedt noted. “Now stocked with nearly 30,000 cans the plans were set for the stacking day. Guinness Book of World Records was contacted and all the wheels were set in motion.  The newest update to the record was now found to be 19,019 cans, by a bank in South Africa called Nedbank’s Gauteng, which was still in their ability.”

“It was a long day, but it went amazingly smooth,” Dingelstedt  said. “The teamwork exhibited by the Teen Advisory Board members was unbelievable. The builders averaged approximately 2,000 cans per hour. At times, frustration set in when roadblocks were stumbled upon and building slowed to a crawl. Numerous times throughout the build, work would pause to discuss where to place the next cans or where to move the scaffolding. Fifteen-year olds were working with fifty-year olds exchanging ideas. If the younger ones had the best ideas, then it was done.  Other times it seemed as if we were cruising right along.”

Not everyone could work on the can pile. The tedious jobs of unwrapping cases or transporting cases from the can room to the build site in the foyer were also tackled with gusto by the teens. They rotated jobs throughout the day. “It was very impressive that none of the kids complained and gave 110% all day no matter what job they had,” Dingelstedt said.

According to the cover photo on the group’s Facebook page, the Pyramid contains “25, 585 cans and stands 15-ft, 6in. tall.”  A fact sheet issued by the Teen Advisory Board states “The base layer will be 42 x 42 cans square and will contain 1,764 cans. The next layer will be 41 x 41 cans square progressing until the last layer of one can; will top off the pyramid to break the record.”

The teens are donating the food to NJ Food Bank, Cranford Family Care and the Salvation Army Plainfield Corps for distribution to the needy and victims of Super storm Sandy.

Guinness required professional supervisors. Rotary president Dave Del Vecchio lent his architectural skills and Victor Vinegra of Harbor Consultants, Cranford provided pro bono surveyor services, and former town commissioner Scott Mease, an engineer by trade acted as chief construction consultant. Witnesses were also required by Guinness. Mayor Tom Hannen, Commissioners Andis Kalnins and Ed O’Malley, Boy Scout’s Troop 80’s Kathleen Murray, Roy Walton and Jim Parlapiano, and Downtown Manager Kathleen Prunty donated their time to the efforts by writing detailed reports of all happenings to Guinness.

Hannen and Superintendent of Cranford Schools, Gayle Carrick even donned a hardhat and were seen high up on the scaffolding throughout the day.  Heinz Ricken acted as Steward of all records to be submitted to Guinness. Wally Shackell, former Mayor of Cranford and member of the Teen Advisory Board, acted as an advisor all day. Scaffolding was donated from Circelli Construction of Union and JTG Scaffolding from Linden.

With all the reports verified, log books prepared, photos and videos edited, surveyor reports completed The Teen Advisory Board will await the final certification of their world record by Guinness in London, England, which can take as long as a 6 – 8 weeks. The group is confident that they have done everything that was asked of them by Guinness and that the record should be certified. Dingelstedt said, “It’s not the World Record that is so important about this day. It’s over 28,000 can of food that will help needy people get what they need to feed their families.”

Photos of the build can be seen here:

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