Poliquin meets with human nutrition, food science graduate students

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who represents Maine’s 2nd District, met with nine University of Maine graduate students on the Orono campus in November.

The students are dietetic interns studying human nutrition and food science in the School of Food and Agriculture. They are completing a public policy project as part of their degree requirements.

Three of the interns, Mikiko Marzilli, Renae Al-Fdeilat and Huong Ly Nguyen, are interested in helping Poliquin gain support for the Fruit and Vegetable Access for Children Act he wrote and introduced into the House of Representatives in September.

The bill would amend the current program to include the use of canned, dried, frozen or pureed fruits and vegetables to broaden choices available to students and help schools take advantage of locally grown produce.

David Yarborough, a wild blueberry specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and representative of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, also attended the meeting, along with other dietetic interns, Chantel Banus, Zakkary Castonguay, Tara Gould, Marissa Rublee, Amy Ryan and Grace Violette.

Poliquin said his passion for the bill stemmed from his time spent raising his son and the concern he had for his son’s and other children’s nutritional health, especially children experiencing economic hardship.

The bill would have a positive environmental effect, allowing schools to purchase more in-state produce and reducing the need for transportation of fresh fruit and vegetables across state lines during nongrowing seasons, he said.

Yarborough added that freezing options would be good for delicate fruits, such as wild blueberries and strawberries, which are difficult to transport at their peak. Plus, freezing locks in nutrients and preserves nutritional quality. An added benefit to Maine’s economy could be a potential increase in market demand from schools across the nation for local Maine berries, Poliquin said.

Poliquin emphasized the importance of students like the graduate dietetic interns advocating for legislation related to their expertise.