I’m writing to ask Maine citizens to please contact our members of Congress and give them the message that Mainers want to keep the Clean Air Act strong.

My sister is asthmatic and has severe allergies. For most of us, we wake up and start our day without much thought to the air we are breathing.

This is not the case for my sister. She checks air quality and then plans her activities accordingly. Due to her conditions, my sister has a “sixth sense” of the air quality just by taking a breath, and a wheezing, tight chest means a bad air day in Maine.

This summer, my sister hiked to the top of Mount Katahdin. After a lifetime of nebulizers, inhalers, medications and air monitoring, it was a momentous occasion and testament to her determination. But she couldn’t have done it without the Clean Air Act.

The air is a lot cleaner than it was when my sister was a kid and first diagnosed with asthma — the Clean Air Act has been working hard to clean up our air since the 1970s. Now Congress is proposing steps to weaken the Clean Air Act and make it more difficult for the EPA to protect us from toxic air pollution!

Our Maine senators need to support the Clean Air Act, keep it strong, and keep the EPA protecting our air not only in Maine, but throughout our country.

Keeping the Clean Air Act strong will keep protecting and improving our air quality, and keep people like my sister hiking to the tops of mountains.

Demetra Giatas

Portland

Potato critics ignore the vegetable’s value

We are writing to express our concern as Maine school nutrition professionals regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed restrictions of starchy vegetables.

Maine school nutrition programs have led the country with their nutrition initiatives.

Soda has not been sold to students in Maine schools since 2007, and 99 percent of Maine schools have no deep fryers.

More than 40 Maine schools have met the Healthier U.S. Challenge with more to follow.

We support moderation and variety as the foundation of a healthy diet and because of this our concerns are;

• Key nutrients will be limited, including potassium, vitamin C, fiber and a variety of phytonutrients.

• Coupling new foods such as black beans with a familiar one such as corn increases student acceptance of less familiar foods.

• Limiting white potatoes, corn, peas and lima beans to a total of 1 cup per week restricts our ability to serve regional cuisine such as shepherd’s pie and beef stew.

• If white potatoes are limited, we see them being replaced by less nutrient-dense foods, such as rice, pasta and bread.

• If we serve a baked potato, none of the restricted vegetables can be offered during that week.

• As we strive to move our students toward a more plant-based diet, we don’t want to restrict vegetables that can play a significant role in supporting that change.

• Limiting these affordable local options will create an insurmountable challenge to already strained budgets.

The cafeteria is the largest classroom in the school where students learn that potatoes are more than just french fries and chips.

Dietary changes happen over a period of time and cannot be legislated. Nutrition in the trash is no nutrition.

Ellen Demmons

RSU 21

Lyman

Mary Emerson

RSU 55/RSU 72

Gorham

Your paper recently ran an opinion piece by a Maine dentist castigating the position our U.S. senators have taken on a school nutrition issue that’s particularly important to our state.

As a registered dietitian and a mother of school-aged children who eat school lunches, I applaud improvements to the school lunch program. Our children deserve healthful school meals.

However, I’m bothered by the misrepresentation of potatoes that was put forth in that piece, as I have researched the issue with the help of industry funding.

First, there is no question that potatoes have an important role in a well-balanced diet. They’re packed with potassium and dietary fiber, two nutrients that are chronically underconsumed by both children and adults, according to 2010 federal dietary guidelines.

Schools across the state struggle daily to serve well-balanced lunches to thousands of children on a very tight budget, and potatoes are a versatile, affordable way to deliver some important nutrients.

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, french fries comprise just 1.5 percent of the total daily calories in the diets of Americans ages 2 and older.

Characterizing our senators’ defense of potatoes as an attempt to keep fries on the menu daily in our schools is not only unfair, it’s incorrect, as the issue is about the severe limitation of potatoes and starchy vegetables, not just fries.

Pinning the complex issue of childhood obesity on one food is an incredible oversimplification. Which food will be discriminated against next?

Encouraging the consumption of a wide variety of wholesome foods — including potatoes and other starchy vegetables — is a more reasonable approach, and one that both students and schools can live with.

Kitty Broihier

South Portland

Rescuers of 9/11 need full compensation for harm

As I watched the horrifying film footage and the touching memorials to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I grew increasingly outraged that those who were first responders during that tragedy have been treated so shamefully regarding their compensation and health care.

In a country where we can find billions of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion, subsidize people who are here illegally and enable generational welfare; in a country where every Tom, Dick and Harriet is a “hero,” it is disgraceful that we have not honored these real heroes with the compensation they so obviously deserve.

In my opinion, every penny of their every need should have been met by a grateful nation from the second they stepped from that debris field. Any other treatment of these brave individuals is un-American.

Karen Moore

Saco