Ex-school canteen vendor explains why S$10 rental doesn't mean she can sell food cheap

She hopes others would spare a thought for school canteen vendors.

Siti Hawa | September 04, 2020, 06:00 PM

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A former school canteen vendor, Haida Waty, took to Facebook on Sep. 3 to share her experience operating a food stall and the operational costs that can easily add up.

Haida revealed that a rental cost of "only S$10" for a school canteen stall does not mean that food can be sold at a "very very cheap price" as there are other things that vendors need to pay for.

Canteen vendor at a primary school in 2009

In her post, Haida revealed that she was a canteen vendor at a primary school back in 2009.

She is currently working as a kitchen helper at a school canteen and claims to see the same problems.

Haida said that people would question why the food was "so expensive" if the rental only costs S$10 monthly:

"People will say, ur rental only $10.00, y u sell so so expensive? Hello, u think down here I only pay rental? You got see the other things dat we need to pay?"

She showed a list of a stall's monthly expenses:

  • Rental: S$10.70
  • Cost of rubbish disposal: S$30
  • Electricity and water: S$60
  • Gas: S$400
  • Manpower: S$50 x 20 days = S$1,000

According to Haida, the total cost is S$1,500.70.

Pays the same price for ingredients

She also pointed out that school canteen vendors pay the "same price" for ingredients as those who run stalls in hawker centres or food courts.

She added that it is not possible to buy vegetables in bulk:

"There is NO concession card for SCHOOL canteen vendors dat I can use at NTUC/Sheng Siong or any wet market to get discounted price. How to sell cheap? U suggest I buy in bulk? For vege, can buy in bulk? Operation hours of school canteen is 8am to 3pm. If I buy a lot, where I keep? I buy frozen food in bulk, where I keep?"

Haida also said that ingredients used to cook for schools must have the "healthy logo", which usually cost more.

On top of this, she would have to take a S$12 Grab ride to her stall from the market as taking a bus while carrying "many things" is hard.

She also adds that buying a car is out of the question:

"If you say I should buy car n drive my own is cheaper, I buy car use what? Leaves is it? Then I put water in my petrol tank and the car can move is it?"

Parents and staff complain

Haida said that it is the parents and staff instead of the students who "usually complain":

"The students, never say much. But parents are the ones who usually complain. If you think what your child eat in school is expensive, McDonald's meal is cheap is it?"

She suggests that parents can prepare food for their child to bring to school if they think that the food sold by school canteen vendors is expensive.

She adds that school staff have the "mindset" that school canteen food must be cheap and sedap (delicious).

She disagrees and says, "mind you, cheap cannot be sedap because lack of ingredients used, and sedap cannot be cheap".

She then gives an example of a scenario with a school staff who, according to Haida, was "unhappy" that she had to pay S$2.50 for Mee Rebus:

"You buy mee rebus, u ask for extra noodle, then you want more gravy, then you say u want whole egg i.o half an egg, then u add bagedil. Then final price is S$2.50, then u repeat after me, S$2.50??? U got hearing problem is it? Then, with that unhappy face, you take out cash from your PRADA wallet n you pass to me, I feel like asking you, your PRADA wallet is ORI or FAKE eh? Or was it PRATA eh?"

She also gave another example of a meal that costs S$3 and broke down the cost:

  • Bagedil: $0.50
  • Fish Fingers $0.50
  • Sunny side up: $0.50
  • Chicken $1.00
  • Rice: $0.50

She then asked if it is expensive and questioned how much a stall at a food court or hawker centre would charge for the same meal.

Bills to pay

Haida ends the post by asking that others spare a thought for school canteen vendors as they have bills to pay and other financial commitments:

"We don’t want to be rich as in rich that we can own a BMW or bungalow, but we do have bills to pay, mouths to feed, commitments to settle, and we do need a little self-pampering. What’s the point of waking up early, work hard and then we have too LITTLE for ourselves?"

She adds that there is no such thing as "rental is cheap what".

Mixed reactions

In response to the post, a few individuals shared their views.

One person agreed with Haida and said that he is a canteen vendor himself:

Photo via Haida Waty on Facebook

While another revealed that they had tried to operate a stall years ago but "gave up":

Photo via Haida Waty on Facebook

One person said that they would be "very happy" to pay S$2.50 for lunch.

Photo via Haida Waty on Facebook

Another agreed that "cheap" rental does not mean that she earns "big bucks":

Photo via Haida Waty on Facebook

Some, however, suggested that Haida find other opportunities:

Photo via Haida Waty on Facebook

Photo via Haida Waty on Facebook

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