A nutritious breakfast project is donating food to the students
Beijing - XINHUA
While many Chinese parents in cities worry about their children's growing girth, the government is taking steps to address the opposite: malnourished children in the countryside.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) said on Monday it has allocated another 16.2 billion yuan (2.63 billion U.S. dollars) in special funds to support a national plan to improve nutrition for rural students this year.
This year's state subsidies to primary and middle school students, 3.2 percent more than a year ago, will go to schools in 699 impoverished counties in 22 provincial-level areas, mainly in central and western China, according to the MOF.
About 32.29 million rural students have benefited from the 46.23 billion yuan in subsidies the central government has allocated since 2011, when the Chinese government launched the nutrition improvement program.
Under the program, each student will receive three yuan per day for more nutritious meals.
The program highlights the wealth gap between China's rural areas and cities, where childhood obesity is a growing problem.
About 12 percent of children aged 7-18 years old in China are overweight or obese, according to a survey by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association in 2012.
The obesity problem among adults and children is more acute in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, where people enjoy higher incomes, eat richer foods and lead more sedentary lifestyles.
"China is facing dual challenges in malnutrition and obesity among children," said Hu Xiaoqi, a nutritionist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "This is an arduous task for people like us working on students' nutrition."