KUALA LUMPUR - MOST state Education Departments have not received complaints on canteen operators increasing their prices for a reason: most of them have not done so.
But many had resorted to other measures to ease the rising costs, including reducing the food portions and laying off the extra help.
Parents and students were not happy with the smaller portions, which some claimed were reduced up to a quarter.
Nur Khatijah Malik, 14, said her school canteen had downsized her favourite nasi lemak that cost RM1 (S$0.40).
"I get hungry again after a few hours," said Khatijah, who started bringing food from home yesterday.
S. Rajan, 16, a student from one of the top schools here, said he used to get five pieces of kuih or keropok lekor for RM1. But since Jan 2, it had been reduced to three.
Most school canteens in George Town, Penang, were keeping their old prices but complained they would not be able to sustain their livelihood if they kept doing so.
A canteen operator in Jalan Mesjid Negeri said his daily earnings had shrunk since Thursday, the first day of school.
Another school canteen operator in Jalan Ayer Itam said he was forced to terminate his part-time workers.
State director of education Datuk Ahmad Tarmizi Kamaruddin reminded the operators they were not allowed to raise their prices indiscriminately.
"I understand their problem and they need to discuss this with their respective schools. They should consider all options, including reducing the number of food items, to maintain their costs."
Negri Sembilan director of education Kalsom Khalid confirmed that prices of food sold at schools in the state had not increased.
"We monitored them on the first and second day of school and found that none did so. But if we receive complains, we will send our personnel to check."
School canteen operators in Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, had also kept to the old prices despite the sharp increase in the prices of sugar, fish and vegetables.
At SK Batu Rakit canteen, a plate of nasi lemak or chicken rice is sold at RM1. Drinks cost between 50 sen and RM1 a cup. The school canteen operator, Marida Deraman, 30, said food prices between 30 sen and RM1 would not burden the pupils.
"We understand that people here are not wealthy and they cannot afford to give their kids extra pocket money if we increase our prices."
Some school canteens in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, had cut their food portions to retain their prices. SMK Sanzac canteen operator Alfiana Mohd Alias said he started doing so when the prices of ingredients went up.
"If the prices go down, we will serve the portion like we used to."
State education director Datuk Jame Alip said although there were no complaints about pricier canteen food, the department would monitor the situation.
It was however, a different story for many schools in Teluk Intan, Perak, as checks revealed that canteen operators had raised their prices.