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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.

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