CHANGSHA, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- Yang Changhai, principal of the Tongmu Primary School in central China's Hunan province, is careful to log the expenses his school incurs for its free lunch program.
"Each item is recorded in detail. We are required to release the information online for public supervision," Yang said.
Yang's school, located in a remote mountainous area, is one of the beneficiaries of a charity project that helps hungry rural students by providing them with free lunches.
The "Free Lunch for Children" project was initiated by Deng Fei, a reporter for the Phoenix Weekly, in September 2011.
More than 500 other journalists have joined the cause since then, calling for public donations to improve nutrition for impoverished rural school children.
The project is now operated by the China Social Welfare Foundation.
So far, students at 178 rural schools in Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces have received free lunches through the project, with another 300 schools applying to participate, said Dang Jun, vice secretary-general of the Free Lunch Foundation, a group affiliated with the project.
Over 1 million people have donated to the project, with donations totalling 32.3 million yuan (5.13 million U.S. dollars) thus far, Dang said.
The Chinese government initiated its own rural nutrition program shortly after the project was launched, aiming to improve the diets of primary and middle school students in remote areas.
The State Council, or China's cabinet, announced the program in October 2011, earmarking 16 billion yuan each year to feed 26 million students in 680 counties and cities across the country.
"Charitable endeavors by non-governmental groups like Free Lunch for Children have promoted the promulgation of social policies in China and are of great significance," said Wang Zhenyao, a former social welfare official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
A supervisory committee consisting of 10 donors, experts and journalists has been created to monitor the donations and make sure that they go where they are needed, Deng said.
"Each donation can be traced to ensure that it is used properly," Deng said.