The Ministry of Education has ordered all universities to stabilize the price of meals served in their canteens in the wake of recent hikes in food prices.
The average price of a dish served up in a university canteen in Beijing, Wuhan and Guangzhou has increased by 0.1 yuan (1.3 cents) to one yuan (13 cents).
Some students from Beijing University are even choosing to dine on campus at the neighboring Tsinghua University, which is currently dishing out cheaper meals.
The cost of keeping the canteen meal prices down will be borne by the universities and local governments, which have been told to increase subsidies to higher education institutions.
"Universities and colleges across the country must stabilize canteen food prices, adjust the type of food available without compromising nutritional value and ensure the supply of low-price food," said ministry spokesman Wang Xuming.
"College canteens should reduce waste and cost," he continued, warning college officials not to treat the situation as "a petty issue of food and drink".
"It is very important for universities to "budget carefully" at this time," said Wang.
Wang urged universities to sign meat supply contracts directly with food processing plants to reduce costs but Wu Lan, director of the Beijing universities joint food purchasing center, believes this is not enough to solve the problem.
"Although most universities in Beijing purchase food together in bulk which guarantees a low price, the overall market price has risen sharply and even universities that jointly purchase food in wholesale cannot escape the surging price," Wu told the Beijing News.
(Xinhua News Agency September 4, 2007)