By Roger Hollands

Beans are good for the body, the soul, and lately, the Guinness Book of World Records, too.

On July 13, "Bean Mountain" was presented by Canada Safeway and Heinz Canada Inc. to the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank. Staged at the Dalhousie Station Safeway,the mountain of 11,749 cans was also declared a Guinness world record for the largest indoor display of canned goods.

For the Guinness record to be legitimate, University of Calgary engineering professors were called on to design Bean Mountain and validate the can count. Civil engineer Dr. Nigel Shrive designed the structure while department head Dr. Tom Brown, with the help of his colleague Dr. Gopal Achari, counted the cans. The count was originally attempted using mathematical equations and computer programs, however, these methods failed and the professors were reduced to counting by hand.

"We could probably have built anything we wanted," explained Brown. "But building it wouldn’t have been the problem; counting the cans would have."

Brown added that several structures were considered and rejected due to the difficulties involved in counting the cans. The existing structure, while simple, is quite an engineering acheivement.

"I suggested we put a can in a compression tester and test it and video it and put it on display as an illustration of the science and engineering that went into this thing," said Brown. The messy suggestion was vetoed.

Calgary resident and two-time Mount Everest summiteer Dave Rodney was present to promote the event.

"I truly believe we must climb with a conscience," he said during a general address. "I often call these [projects] ‘everyday Everests.’"

Rodney, the only Canadian to conquer Everest twice, spoke of completely eliminating the need for a food bank and giving the less fortunate of the world a "hand up" in the traditionally benevolent spirit of the Calgary Stampede.

The mountain of beans was part of a public relations effort by Safeway and Heinz aimed at helping the less fortunate in the greater Calgary area.

"When we were brain storming [publicity ideas], the idea of a world record came up and we thought: ‘Who could benefit from this?’ That’s when the food bank came into it," explained Toby Oswald, Vice-President of Public Relations and Government Affairs for Canada Safeway.

As the summer season is typically a time of scarcity for public donations, the CIFFB welcomed Bean Mountain with open arms. Last year 45,000 hampers containing 100,000 cans of beans were distributed to working and impoverished families in Calgary. Under present demand, the record-breaking stack of cans at the Dalhousie Station Safeway is an adequate supply for only seven weeks.

Oswald explained that Safeway and the CIFFB are constantly exploring ideas to generate more donation.

"We are a year-long supporter of the food bank," he said.

The Bean Mountain project officially began on June 24 and will run for six to eight weeks. Donations to the food bank may be made at the Dalhousie Station Safeway or at local food bank branches.

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