September 17, 2013

Letters to the editor: Don't let Congress slash food aid

Every day thousands of our neighbors, friends, families and co-workers silently suffer from hunger. Instead of allowing us to help them, Congress is proposing cuts to vital programs that help feed families, children and the elderly ("House Republicans plan vote on cuts to food aid programs," Sept. 15). We can't let this happen.

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Proposed reductions in federal food aid target a vulnerable population, says a nutrition educator with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

2008 File Photo/Shawn Patrick Ouellette

About one in six people are hungry, and half of those are children. Many Maine residents are struggling to put food on the table and lead healthy lifestyles.

Programs are in place that can help solve the hunger and health problems that our hardworking community members face.

Two of them are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as "food stamps"), which supplements our fellow hungry Americans' diet with nutritious food, and its corresponding Nutrition Education Program (SNAP-Ed), which empowers families to make long-lasting healthy food choices on a limited budget.

In Maine, 19 percent of our population participates in SNAP, with 64 percent of those participants being familes with children and 34 percent being families with elderly or disabled people. Thanks to SNAP-Ed, Maine residents have developed skills like cooking, grocery shopping and budgeting to keep their families healthy.

I work as a nutrition educator through SNAP-Ed and have seen how people's lives can change through the educational opportunities this program provides.

As our country continues to face the consequences of poor nutrition habits, SNAP and SNAP-Ed continue to be under fire during farm bill deliberations on Capitol Hill.

Cutting important nutrition programs is not the answer. We must keep SNAP and SNAP-Ed in our state to ensure our communities stay healthy.

Kristine Kittridge, M.S., R.D., L.D.


U.S. government 'bullying' town into unleashed-dog ban

I imagine the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a sprawling warehouse somewhere that contains its sign inventory. Here are three of the signs it likely has for beaches where piping plovers nest:

•  "No Unleashed Dogs on Beach" -- This sign may be placed on Scarborough's beaches very soon.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of bullying the town of Scarborough into accepting this limitation using two threats: the delay of the Scarborough River dredging project by the Army Corps of Engineers, and the imposition of a $12,000 fine on the town for knowingly causing a resident's dog to kill a piping plover in July.

"No Dogs on Beach" -- This sign was erected on Western Beach last month. It was a condition of the Prouts Neck Association (which owns Western Beach) receiving a beach reconstruction as part of the Corps of Engineers' dredging project. (Without the beach reconstruction, the association's country club would have had the only 16-hole golf course in Maine.)

•  "Beach Closed" -- That's right, no humans on the beach. This sign hasn't gone up in Scarborough -- yet. But it has appeared in Massachusetts, including on beaches in Newburyport, Duxbury and Martha's Vineyard.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has plenty of signs available. It also has volumes of regulations and guidelines, and a staff of attorneys skilled in using those weapons to coerce local governments into adopting Fish and Wildlife Service-approved beach access ordinances -- even when the Fish and Wildlife Service has no legal authority to mandate the ordinance changes.

(What municipality can afford to take on a well-funded federal agency, no matter how lacking in merit the agency's case is?)

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