LANZHOU, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- Apart from book donations and volunteer teachers, Chinese college students now have a new option of supporting China's poorer regions -- by gobbling down their potatoes.
Northwest China's Gansu Province said they supplied 1,000 tonnes of "poverty relief potatoes" to canteens of a number of Chinese universities in a new poverty reduction campaign that started this year.
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 department of education.
By leaving out middle dealers, the farmer-canteen deals ensured a decent price for potato growers and helped support the livelihood of nearly 800 farmers living in poverty, it said.
For the colleges, the robust supplies of potatoes are also expected to help their budget-conscious canteens, which are supposed to keep dish prices low for students, withstand the vegetable price rise in winter.
Dingxi, with its extremely barren land, 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' income. The spud known as the "foreign yam" in many parts of China is credited for its nutrition value and resistance to drought, making it an ideal crop for rainless, impoverished rural parts of western China.
According to the agricultural authorities, by 2020 China will have more than 6.67 million hectares of potato planting areas, 30 percent of which can be processed into staple foods.
Peking University, Tsinghua University and others in Beijing and other provinces have joined the potato purchase, the education department of Gansu said, adding that another 2,000 tonnes will soon 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 tonnes of potatoes a year, officials in Gansu have said.
"We make the potatoes into stir-fried shredded potatoes as well as French fries during breakfast," said Xu Zongdong, a canteen manager at the Lanzhou City University in Gansu.
Xu hailed the potatoes for their good quality and low price. "The potatoes are popular among our students, and often the potato dishes sell out," Xu said.