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Raleigh Register
April 20, 1960

Kennedy Raps Food Program

Says GOP Failed To Make Enough Food Available

The Eisenhower administration's failure to make more and better surplus foods available to the needy in this country was hit hard today by Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass) campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president.

He talked on this subject on a campaign swing through an unemployment-plagued southern West Virginia coal mining area. Thousands in the section are subsisting on government surplus foods.

Kennedy and Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn) are running in the May 10 West Virginia Democratic primary as presidential candidates. It is a popularity primary which will not tie up any convention delegates. Humphrey is not in the state this week.

The first stop of Kennedy campaign bus, after setting out from Beckley this morning was at Mount Hope (pop. 2,500). He made a speech there standing on the hood of an automobile on the main street.

He said 4 million Americans depend on surplus foods distributed by the Department of Agriculture, adding:

"But what kind of food is it? Flour, rice and corn meal - sometimes some butter, cheese and dry skimmed milk - and more flour, rice and corn meal.

"Perhaps they'll soon be receiving lard - sometimes there is a small amount of dry egg solid or dried beans - but it is mostly flour, rice and corn meal.

"That diet is not the basis of a decent existence."

Kennedy said such fare as beef, chickens, turkeys and ducks have been sent abroad in recent years under the overseas surplus food disposal program administered by Agriculture Sec. Ezra Taft benson.

The department of agriculture has not "expected our friends overseas to get by on such a subsistence diet" as it provided in this country, Kennedy said.

Kennedy noted that he sponsored a bill last year to take the program out of the hands of the department of agriculture, but the effort failed.

He added that a Democratic Administration would see to it that people in this country who depend upon surplus foods "receive a diet of real substance and variety."

Kennedy's route today covered the same area through which Humphrey had campaigned earlier.

Practically the only difference in the two itineraries was that kennedy started here in Beckley and moved north to Charleston. It was the other way around with Humphrey, who was reported to have picked up votes with his New Dealish speeches and just-plain-folks manner.

Much has changed in the 12 days between the tours. One late development is that the two men have agreed to meet in face-to-face debate about some of the issues.

The time and the place have not been settled. Dates of a few days before and the eve of the May 10 Democratic presidential primary are being considered.

Kennedy yesterday announced his acceptance of the challenge to such a debate made by Humphrey.

"In view of the way the campaign is evolving in West Virginia," Kennedy said, "I can't accept the current attacks without fighting back."

Over the past weekend first Humphrey supporters in West Virginia, then Humphrey himself made accusations that Kennedy and his supporters were exaggerating the effects of anti-Catholic sentiment, so the results of the primary could be treated as unimportant, if a bad showing made that necessary.

Kennedy reacted first by bringing up his religion on his own, instead of waiting for questions about it, and then by agreeing to the debate, which he had been avoiding. In Wisconsin, where he beat Humphrey by more than 100,000 votes, Kennedy had said that such a debate "would be harmful to the party and to the candidates."

Today was the last of three days for Kennedy in West Virginia this week. He is returning to Washington after a reception at Huntington. Neither he nor Humphrey, who has been away since his first tour, will be back before the week is out.

Next Monday, with the primary just one day more than two weeks off, both the senators will be campaigning. Kennedy has three more days planned then, and other appearances later. With few exceptions, Humphrey will stay in the state from that day on, continuing with his touring by chartered bus.

Starting in the north central section this past Monday, Kennedy moved on to Wheeling, the big city of the Northern Panhandle, with its population about as Catholic as Wisconsin.

Once again he denied that his religion would interfere if he became President. His phrasing this time was, "I don't take orders from above."

The change in the religious situation from yesterday to today couldn't have been greater. The southern counties Kennedy passed through are overwhelmingly Protestant.

Stops on his itinerary, in order, included Beckley, Mount Hope, Oak Hill, Fayetteville, Gauley Bridge, Montgomery, Cedar Grove, Cabin Creek, Charleston and Huntington.

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