Is Idaho the future?
One day this spring, Leora, more than eight months pregnant,
went to visit her doctor in the little town of Caldwell,
Idaho. He told her she was becoming malnourished. "I
told him, 'Well, when the summer starts I'll eat better,'" she
recalls. Leora, a U.S. citizen, and her husband, who is
here illegally, have five children.
"I don't eat so that they can eat," she says. "They
have to eat everything on their plate. Everything. Nothing
can be left. If they leave it, we eat it. They get an apple,
they have to split it three ways. We limit them from eating
here in the morning unless it's oatmeal or cream of wheat.
If I don't make that, they eat at school. The kids drink
evaporated milk. It's forty cents a can. Dinner is normally
rice, beans. Every day. Rice and beans and sopa." Leora and her husband are also looking after two of his
sister's children in the three-bedroom house they live
in on a quiet residential block twenty miles from Boise.
They scrabbled to get the $1,500 down payment on the $70,000
property, and paying the $700-a-month mortgage has pushed
the family almost to the limit.
When they fell behind on
the mortgage after having to spend precious dollars on
an operation for Leora's sister, they rented out one of
the three bedrooms to a cousin. Because of that, the government
temporarily stopped giving the family food stamps, forcing
Leora to choose between relying on charity and not eating.
And so the family relies on the largesse of the Rescue
Mission, a Christian missionary group with offices in downtown
Boise. It tallies the number of meals handed out, as well
as the "decisions for Christ" taken by its clients.