Hunger pangs as campus canteens ditch Rahmah menu

Diyana Ibrahim

University students lament costlier food on campus as vendors hike prices over the semester break. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, October 8, 2023.

UNIVERSITY students were concerned about rising food prices as campus canteens abandoned Menu Rahmah.

Most of the eateries had raised their prices after a semester break.

A Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia student, who wished to be known as Ariff, said some shops had offered the menu for only two weeks.

“Some raised their (prices) while some did not. At my college, there is a restaurant still selling chicken rice at RM5.

“I always order the chicken rice to save money. If we order rice and a side dish, it would cost more than RM5,” he said.

“The programme lasted only two weeks when it was first introduced,” Ariff told The Malaysian Insight.

“There are also shops that have increased the price of drinks to RM2.50. Iced tea now costs RM1.80.

“But we students have no choice. If you want a cheap restaurant, you have to travel far from the college.”

The student from Miri, Sarawak, was worried prices would continue rising after the semester starts next week.

The Malaysian Muslim Students Association (Gamis) said the prices greatly affected students living off-campus.

“This is from our recent survey. Some were so affected by the increase in food prices that they did not eat for three days,” Gamis president Wan Muhammad Arif Wan Bazli Fariz said.

“It means they are eating unhealthy food, such as biscuits or anything that can fill their stomach. They are not getting a balanced diet.”

Gamis collected more than 1,000 signatures from students, especially in Penang and Selangor, who reported being distressed by the rising cost of living.

“Students have no choice but to buy food. They are not allowed to cook on campus. But If they stay off-campus, there is also the burden of rent and tranports costs,” he said.

Students say as they are not allowed to cook in dorms, buying food is their only option, and pricier meals have led to some limiting their food intake. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, October 8, 2023.

The signatures, Wan Muhammad said, were for a petition to urge the government to include in Budget 2024 student discounts on goods.

The government must do that via the e-Belia Rahmah programme and set a ceiling price for food on campuses, he said.

The price hikes followed a sudden increase in costs of basic goods such as imported rice and chicken.

Industry operators expected food prices to rise in the third quarter due to the country’s dependence on imported goods and the weak ringgit.

They said consumer goods prices would grow by up to 20% due to import inflation and increased business operation costs.

But some food vendors were still trying to absorb costs, such as Tanjung Ria cafe owner Aminah Razak at Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Kuala Terengganu.

She offers a basic menu at RM3.50 as she does not have the heart to raise the price.

“From the beginning, we have been selling this basic menu at RM3.50. There is rice and protein such as chicken, fish or meat, and vegetables and a little sambal.

“If we raise our prices, the students will not come.”

She said even though a basic meal costs only RM3.50, many students have asked for cheaper meals.

“If they ask for something cheaper than RM3.50, I will tell them to take the side dishes for free. I know they are badly affected,” she said. – October 8, 2023.

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