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Food Insecurity and Education: Background information when reading Too Shattered for Mending

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Too Shattered for Mending

by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

Too Shattered for Mending by Peter Brown Hoffmeister X
Too Shattered for Mending by Peter Brown Hoffmeister
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  • Published:
    Sep 2017, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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Food Insecurity and Education

This article relates to Too Shattered for Mending

Print Review

Food InsecurityThere is no question that Little's life is affected by both his circumstances and the environment he lives in – and the Pierce, Idaho in which Hoffneister sets Too Shattered For Mending is not a figment of his imagination, but a real place, which means that it isn't a question of if there are real teens with the same struggles that Little and his peers face, but how many. Hoffman writes in an author's note:

The people of Pierce are engaging…Independent yet mutually supportive…It's strange being in a town where people are generally capable of wiring their own homes, acquiring their own meat, storing up wood for a long winter, and fixing their own cars or trucks, but that's Pierce…Unfortunately, the poverty, both financial and cultural, is stunning as well. The racism, the lack of higher education, the drug trade. There's little legal oversight, almost zero police or sheriff presence in the town. Many times in Pierce I've seen a twelve- or thirteen-year-old ride an ATV on the Idaho 11 through the middle of town with a shotgun or rifle on his front rack.

This certainly paints a strong picture of what life is like in a place that is remote in every way, and it makes what Little faces every day that much harder, and his commitment to trying to stay in school that much more commendable. One of the hardest things to read about is the food uncertainty in the lives of most of the youth the novel focuses on; Little can hunt and fish, and does so to supplement the food supply for both himself and his cousin, who is, at one point, very concerned that there is no meat for them to eat. But Little and his cousin also depend upon food stamps, which are sometimes bartered for other things before food can be purchased. Throughout the book, there is a sense of constant hunger underlying Little's life. Readers watch him skip school to supplement his food supply, and see him eat to the point of being sated only once. His cousin is vocal about her hunger, and Rowena, the girl Little's brother was dating, is always described in wan tones.

As of 2015, The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) estimated that 15 million children in the US – 21% of all children – lived below the federal poverty threshold, and that 43% lived in low-income families. According to the American Psychological Association's presentation on the effects of poverty, hunger, and homelessness on children and youth, as of 2010, 22% of children under the age of 18 lived in food-insecure households. Hunger has well-documented negative impacts on children, from early development through adolescence, including increased demonstration of negative behavior – something seen with Willa, Little's cousin, – increased risk of psychiatric and functional problems, and increased risk for chronic health conditions. In addition to the physical and social impacts, hunger also impacts children's ability to learn: American Pediatric Association research connects nutrition to brain function in children, where kids with access to poorer nutrition tend to be more distracted, and unable to focus.

Food insecurity in the United States does not have a tangible single solution, but is often acknowledged and supported both with federal programs such as food stamps and school lunch programs, and community food banks in many areas. As the need grows, more communities and people are being made aware of the level of food insecurity in the US, and also the individual and social ramifications of this insecurity across a person's life. However, it is rare that those who do not personally experience it are given such a clear picture of the anxiety of food insecurity as Hoffmeister portrays in Too Shattered For Mending.

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Filed under Society and Politics

This article relates to Too Shattered for Mending. It first ran in the September 20, 2017 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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