SINGAPORE, July 2 — Students in primary, secondary and junior colleges may be paying higher canteen food prices, after the Ministry of Education (MOE) recently revised the school canteen pricing guidelines.

TODAY understands that the last time the guidelines were revised was in 2018, and that the increase allowed under the new guidelines will be less than S$1 (RM3.16) across the primary, secondary schools and junior colleges.

In response to TODAY’s queries, MOE said on Friday (July 1): “With rising costs of food supplies, MOE recently revised the school canteen pricing guidelines to guide schools in their regular review of canteen food prices.”

Canteen stallholders who feel that their food prices are unsustainable may approach the school with proposals, and the schools will evaluate such requests in line with the guidelines.

Pricing guidelines are put in place to keep school canteen food affordable for students, while providing stallholders with adequate income to sustain their business, the ministry added.

“Schools are encouraged to adjust their canteen food prices regularly to reflect the underlying cost of food items while being cognisant of keeping food affordable for students.”

For needy families, “generous subsidies” will be provided through MOE or school-based support, in order to ensure that meals are kept affordable for students, the ministry said.

TODAY has asked MOE for confirmation that the last review of the guidelines was in 2018.

According to MOE’s website, monthly rental for a canteen stall ranges from S$5 to S$15 depending on the school population.

Four canteen stallholders approached by TODAY noted the higher prices that they were paying for ingredients. Not all had received the news about the revised guidelines.

Rosemee, who operates a Western food stall at a secondary school in Sembawang, said that she has not been told about the revised guidelines.

The 55-year-old, who did not want to give her full name, has been running her stall for nine years. She said that the prices of food supplies have been steadily increasing since the pandemic hit.

A packet of frozen chicken costs S$5.40 a kilogram now, up from S$4 last year. The price of cheese has also shot up, with a 2kg pack of mozzarella cheese now costing S$24, compared to S$18 last year.

She added that after “pleading for a slight increase”, the school allowed a 10-cent increase for dishes containing cheese in May, but this is still not enough to cover the rising costs.

“There is no profit. What I’m earning now is only enough to cover my salary and pay my helper, I don’t have much savings,” Rosemee said.

Her concerns were echoed by stallholders Roszini and Siti. Both told TODAY that their schools have allowed them to submit documents to adjust their food and drinks prices, and that they are planning to do so.

“I’m planning to increase my food prices by 20 to 30 cents, enough for me to cover my profit,” Madam Siti said, also declining to give her full name. Her burgers are now priced at S$2.

The 40-year-old has been running a snack stall selling sandwiches and burgers in a secondary school located in Bukit Batok for 13 years. The last time she had to raise prices was seven years ago.

However, she does not intend to seek to raise prices further than that, because she is concerned about students who may not be as well-off.

“I’m worried. My concern is more for the needy students. If the price increases too much, those on financial assistance schemes will be affected,” she said.

“Unless they get more subsidies, then that would be okay. If not, it will be difficult for them.”

Similarly, a 39-year-old who gave his name as just Roszini intends to ask the school for permission to raise prices by 30 to 50 cents. He runs a chicken rice stall at Anglo-Chinese School on Barker Road.

“I need to keep up with the costs. As much as we would like to keep prices low for school kids, we ourselves have to survive.”

He added that the cost of a 17-litre container of cooking oil has doubled since last year, costing S$60 now.

Unlike the other stallholders, Peter Chia, who runs a fruit and drink stall at a secondary school in Singapore’s northeast district, told TODAY that he does not intend to raise prices even though he has been made aware of the revised guidelines.

He believes that he is the only stallholder in the school canteen who has not submitted a request. His fruit cups are priced from 80 cents to S$1.20, enough for him to make a slight profit.

“The cost (of fruits) is indeed high. But for me, just making a bit will do. I just want to make plenty of students happy and get them to eat more fruits.” — TODAY