A farmer in Gansu province is busy harvesting potatoes. Some 1,000 tons of potatoes have been supplied to the canteens of a number of Chinese universities as part of a poverty-relief campaign. [PHOTO BY WANG JIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY]
Apart from book donations and volunteer teachers, Chinese college students now have a new way to support China's poorer regions-by gobbling their potatoes.
Northwest China's Gansu province has supplied 1,000 tons of "poverty-relief potatoes" to the canteens of a number of Chinese universities in a new poverty-reduction campaign that started in 2018.
The universities bought potatoes directly from farmers in Dingxi, a city known for using potato farming to alleviate its grinding poverty, according to the province's education department.
By leaving out middle dealers, the farmer-canteen deals ensured a decent price for potato growers and helped support the livelihoods of nearly 800 farmers living in poverty.
The supply of potatoes is expected to help budget-conscious canteens, which are supposed to keep prices low for students, withstand the vegetable price rise in winter.
Dingxi, with its barren lands, had long been listed as one of China's poorest regions before it rose to become the country's major potato-production base.
China is endeavoring to make potatoes one of the country's staple foods to better ensure food security and improve farmers' incomes.
The spud known as the "foreign yam" in many parts of the country is credited for its nutritional value and resistance to drought, making it an ideal crop for rainless, impoverished rural parts of western China.
According to agricultural authorities, China will have more than 6.67 million hectares of potato fields, 30 percent of which can be processed into staple foods, by 2020.
Peking University and Tsinghua University among others have joined the program, according to Gansu's education department. Another 2,000 tons will be delivered.
To promote the popularity of such potatoes, canteens of 10 patron universities will open special windows for potato dishes, giving them the ability to sell more than 3,000 tons of potatoes a year, according to officials in Gansu.
"We make the potatoes into stir-fried shredded potatoes as well as french fries during breakfast," says Xu Zongdong, a canteen manager at Lanzhou City University in Gansu.
Xu says the potatoes are high-quality and low-price.
"The potatoes are popular among our students. The potato dishes often sell out."
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