Ex-students miss their school canteen


  • Education
  • Sunday, 05 Jul 2020

Putting it away: Hee placing the washed bento containers away after the students return them to the canteen.

WHEN the going gets tough, the tough put their skills to good use.

In this case, canteen operators who could not cook for students anymore started cooking for a wider clientele.

And the majority of their customers were ex-students who miss their alma mater’s canteen food.

Suriani Sharif, who sells western fare at SMK Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya, turned to Instagram and Facebook for income during the movement control order (MCO).

Under the Ummidew account, she sold both western and local cuisine including lasagna, rice with chicken curry and kebab.

She said it was her children who came up with the idea of selling food online after seeing many food and beverage businesses do the same.

“I felt helpless at the beginning of the MCO until my children came up with the idea of a food delivery service,” she added.

Just like Suriani, Sunny Hee Teng Chai, who runs the canteen at SMK Assunta, Petaling Jaya, also turned to Facebook to launch his food catering-cum-delivery business.

He successfully took Assuntarian Kitchen online, after being encouraged to do so by his daughter, Edana.

Catering is nothing new to Uncle Sunny, as he is fondly known.

He also caters for churches and private business functions.

After being in the canteen business for over 40 years, he has a fan base with many ex-Assuntarians placing orders for dishes they grew up eating.

His nasi lemak is a firm favourite and something almost all his customers say they miss after leaving school.

He also sells frozen food like curry puff and popiah for those who want to cook at home.

He was one of the fortunate ones during the MCO as he still had an income. He was also managing at hospital and college canteens.

The Association of School Canteen Operators said its members had to look for other ways to stay afloat until schools were fully open again.

Its secretary Siti Normah Md Desa said some canteen operators ran a frozen food business while others did food deliveries during the MCO.

“But many operators had to let go of their workers. They could not make

ends meet and most could not even apply for government assistance because they lack the necessary documentation,” she continued.

The association, which has 3,478 members from all over the country operating in national primary schools, Chinese and Tamil primary schools, secondary schools, school hostels, religious schools, vocational schools and Mara Junior Science Colleges, is appealing to the government to help them through these trying times.

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