EAST BRUNSWICK – Football fields are the place of storied legacies, of underdogs and against-all-odds lore.

While that same narrative played out for the East Brunswick Football Team Thursday, the typical game-time battle did not.

The challenge came by way of the stark shelves at the Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach Distribution Services, where the regional pantry was experiencing its usual summertime lull in donations.

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“Each year, our supplies plummet around this time,” said Jennifer Apostol, a project manager with the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, the entity that oversees MCFOODS operation. “This is mainly due to reduced summer donations and collections, and the prevalence of children, home on summer break, and in need of three square meals a day.”

With big hearts and a can-do spirit, in steps this year’s all-stars: the East Brunswick Bears.  

This troop of upper-and-lowerclassmen football players collected some 2,650 pounds of food during their third annual summer food drive.

“I was very impressed with the effort by our players,” said East Brunswick Head Coach Bob Molarz.  “They really have taken this food drive very seriously.”

Between July 20 and July 29, players faced-off with balmy weather conditions and blistering pavement in their respective neighborhoods, to circulate flyers and donation bags for pick up.  

“That was the focus of the coach when he came aboard…he’s teaching them how to be men and how to give back to their community,” said incoming East Brunswick High School Athletic Director Chris Yannazzo.

In previous years, East Brunswick High School graduate Sean O’Sullivan organized the collection, which has handily become one of largest of the season for MCFOODS.

College-bound O’Sullivan has since passed the goodwill torch along to the next generation of Bears.

“I think it was a good chance to be a leader on the team and give back to the community and families,” said Freshman Tim Gudzak, who was tasked with coordinating the 2015 endeavor.

Gudzak was just one of 85 players – almost third less than 2014 – doling out approximately 2,000 bags for pick up.

“These guys are heroes, not only for helping to feed the region’s struggling individuals and underprivileged families, but for inspiring civic engagement,” said Apostol said.  “They’re not alone either.  The East Brunswick Summer Day Camp drummed up around 1,800 pounds of food and nonperishable items.  It’s very promising to see our youth take such an active role in making this world a better place.”

The public can get involved too by donating at one of MCFOODS stationary drop-off sites, to include the libraries in East Brunswick, Edison, Metuchen, Milltown, Monroe, North Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, Plainsboro, South Amboy, South Brunswick, South Plainfield, Spotswood and Woodbridge.

More information on organizing a food drive may also be found at www.mciauth.com or by contacting Apostol at 609-655-5141.