China's Ministry of Education has ordered colleges and universities to stabilize prices of meals served in their canteens in the wake of recent nationwide hikes in food prices.
The average price of a dish served up in university canteens in Beijing, Wuhan and Guangzhou has increased by 0.1 yuan (1.3 cents) to one yuan (13 cents).
Lured by cheaper meals, some students of Peking University have chosen to dine in the neighboring Tsinghua University.
In Wuhan, the price of rice, flour and pork per kilogram had soared 15 percent, 8.5 percent and 76 percent respectively year-on-year by May.
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 said, urging 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 to get 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 newspaper.
The northern province of Heilongjiang is allocating a daily food subsidy of 2.5 yuan (0.33 U.S. dollars) per person to 25 percent of university students based on family income.
Henan, in central China, has set up a direct purchasing system between food supply companies and schools. Northwest China's Shaanxi has ordered universities to subsidize canteens for water, electricity and gas fees, which have also been blamed for contributing to rises in the price of meals.