Groton-Dunstable Youth Lacrosse players have organized their second annual “Attack Hunger” food drive this weekend, benefiting Loaves & Fishes. COURTESY NANCY OHRINGER
Groton-Dunstable Youth Lacrosse players have organized their second annual “Attack Hunger” food drive this weekend, benefiting Loaves & Fishes. COURTESY NANCY OHRINGER

GROTON — Groton-Dunstable Youth Lacrosse is back to “Attack Hunger” with this weekend’s annual food drive.

On Friday, players will be collecting donations in front of Shaw’s at 760A Boston Road from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, there will be two collection sites taking donations. Cow Pond Field will accept donations from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and they will be accepted at Cutler Field from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Stacey Laudenslager said the lacrosse teams have been involved with supporting food drives for Loaves & Fishes since May 2019. Her son was on the U-15 select team and her husband was coaching when the boys on the team helped out with the National Letter Carrier’s “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive. That food drive was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, so the lacrosse team has subbed in.

“Several of the boys were inspired to go back on their own and stock the shelves, so they started to do some volunteer work,” Laudenslager said. “It branched out from the postal worker’s drive to having their own drive, to going back on their own and putting some volunteer hours into the pantry.”

Laudenslager said that the hope is for the event to be an annual occurrence and the decision was made to use both fields because all but one team will have a home game this weekend.

Christopher Clinton, president of Groton-Dunstable Youth Lacrosse spoke to the importance of youth sports undertaking community service projects.

“We like to think of youth sports as just developing student-athletes and moving forward in the game but we really want the context of youth sports to be grounded in the community and develop those kids not just mentally and physically but as community members,” Clinton said.

For Clinton, there are similarities in the mission of Loaves & Fishes and youth lacrosse.

“This is an organization that creates a feedback loop,” Clinton said. “We talk a lot in lacrosse and in coaching about the feedback loop where if you give the players the opportunities to be better and better themselves, then they take that and in turn produce a team and a game that is better for everyone.”

For Laudenslager, Loaves & Fishes is an organization with roots in the community.

“We felt since it is a local organization it would be more meaningful and help them see the impact,” Laudenslager said.

Loaves & Fishes serves the Nashoba Valley towns of Ayer, Devens, Dunstable, Groton, Harvard, Littleton, and Shirley. Information about how to access their serves is available online or by calling their main telephone number (978) 772-4627.

Throughout the past year, the youth lacrosse organization which serves kids as young as six and as old as 15, had to turn inward. Despite not playing the sport, they had to find ways to collaborate and support players and their families. The result has been not only better collaboration with other sports teams in town but a better recognition of food insecurity.

“The pandemic for many people is not over because of that job loss or that furlough that continues. There is still an increasing need within our greater community that might not be clearly evident just because the mask mandate is gone,” Clinton said. “It does not necessarily mean that the need is diminished. In fact, it probably indicates that the need is greater.”

Suggested donations for the food pantry include: coffee and tea, canned pasta, beef stew, pasta sauce, chili, shampoo, solid albacore tuna, snack crackers, dishwashing soap, and laundry detergent.

“The pandemic really forced us as an organization to look inward to find ways to continue to support players and families, even without being able to go out and participate in the actual sport itself,” Clinton said.