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Federal Help Unlikely For Starving in South

By W. BRUCE Springer

A spokesman for the Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment, and Poverty said yesterday there was "no evidence" that the Administration would take action to alleviate severe hunger in Mississippi..

The subcommittee held open hearings earlier this week to try to put pressure on administration officials. With nationwide press and television coverage, Dr. Robert Coles, a University Health Service psychiatrist, and several other well-known doctors told the Senators that Negro sharecropper children in Mississippi are dying from malnutrition.

The doctors, who examined 700 children in the state during a four-day inspection tour at the end of May, said that existing federal programs were not coping with the problem.

Following the doctors' testimony, the Senators confronted Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman and other officials with demands for immediate relief measures. Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) asked that a state of emergency be declared in Mississippi. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) called for a Public Health Service inquiry into the extent of hunger in the United States.

The heated session came to a boil when Freeman and Javits started yelling at each other about whether or not the Administration bureaucracy had "broken down," as Javits charged.

Freeman, following Coles's report on Mississipi conditions (issued in June), drastically lowered the price of food stamps in the state late last month. These stamps are redeemed at local grocery stores for food worth many times what the coupons cost.

But most of the Senators on the subcommittee think the stamps should be free. Coles pointed out last week that many sharecroppers "live entirely outside the money economy, by barter." These people cannot raise even 50 cents--the present minimum price of the stamps.

At the end of the hearings, the sub-committee asked the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the Office of Economic Opportunity, and the Dept. of Agriculture to file a report within 30 days stating "what action they have taken to determine the extent of hunger in this country and what kind of legislation should be adopted to alleviate it," the subcommittee spokesman said.

But he added that the propects for accomplishing something were "pretty dim."

"You don't move the bureaucracy on an issue like this unless you can mobilize public opinion so strongly that the Comgressional establishment is in turn mobilized," he said. "You have to move the Agriculture committees which are dominated by Southern Congressmen."

When the Administration recommends funds for a specific region under a federal program, the Agriculture committees can simply refuse to vote the necessary authorization.

Coles said yesterday he was pleased with the hearing the Senate gave him. He had been scheduled to testify for an hour and a half, but the session went on all day.

He and the other doctors who compiled the Mississippi report have decided to continue exerting pressure on the government by making further inspection forays into poor rural areas. They will probably tour some part of Appalachia within the year, Coles said yesterday.

The doctors all have had considerable past experience with conditions in the South and Appalachia. Coles, for example, lived in Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana between 1958 and 1964 to study how children adjust to impoverished conditions.

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