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The Need for Nutrition


The Need for Nutrition
Extension brings nutrition education to Aroostook County's migrant community

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Every summer, Cooperative Extension Nutrition Aide Christine Finemore helps address the nutrition education needs of Aroostook County's most transient population — migrant workers and their families.

It is where her heart is.

"I only see them for a short time each year. In July, it feels like a homecoming," says Finemore. "It's a wonderful population, and one in which I feel I can make a big difference. This is intensive nutrition education, empowering them for a lifetime."

Finemore is one of three nutrition aides in Extension's Presque Isle office and one of nine in Aroostook County who provide nutrition education to area residents in venues ranging from daycares and schools to homes and grocery stores.

Photo by Michel Stapleton

She is the only aide working with the children of two populations of migrant workers in Aroostook County. For the past nine years, she has taught youngsters of Hispanic workers, primarily from Texas and Florida. In the past three years, she also has worked with a growing number of migrant children from Maine.

Migrant workers in Maine start arriving in the county in April. The largest number of workers and their families are there July-October. This summer, there were almost 70 youngsters.

Every Monday in July and August, Finemore provides nutrition education at the East Coast Migrant Head Start in Caribou. There, youngsters ages 6 weeks to 16 years spend their days in educational activities while their parents work in the fields. In Mars Hill, Finemore works with preschoolers to pre-adolescents who are children of Maine migrant laborers.

With the help of an interpreter, Finemore leads a bilingual nutrition education workshop and writes a monthly newsletter for migrant parents.

Finemore's lessons about nutrition basics are the same for all youngsters and youths. For infants, nutrition information is directed to childcare staff and parents, including fact sheets in English and Spanish.

Toddlers learn about different types of foods. Preschoolers learn what good food does for our bodies.

Older children learn where good food comes from, often by growing vegetables in raised-bed gardens. For pre-teens and adolescents, the nutritional messages focus on the need to eat well-balanced meals, how to shop cost-effectively for healthy foods, and how to address issues such as eating disorders.

Finemore, who received the 1999 National Paraprofessional of the Year Award from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, is now teaching nutrition programs to some of the same children she rocked as infants. Particularly rewarding are the signs that her messages are getting through.

"One day between classes I was reading a list on the wall of the activities the children enjoyed most since coming to the program," Finemore says. "I was surprised to see they listed the garden I helped them plant and lessons I did with them, some several years ago.

"It was great to see that ‘Mrs. Finemore' was right up there with roller skating."

by Margaret Nagle
December, 2001/January, 2002

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