Learning Journey for Centralised Meal Catering Project for Pre-school

1. For the first time in the pre-school industry, more than 30 pre-school centres have come together to tap on meal catering services for higher productivity and healthier food options. Initiated by the Association of Early Childhood and Training Services (ASSETS) in collaboration with e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), this Lean Enterprise Development (LED) Scheme project is supported by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and Workforce Singapore (WSG).

2. To boost efficiency and productivity especially for smaller operators, and offer value-for-money and healthy meals for pre-schoolers, a three-month pilot run was launched for interested pre-school centres. Meals are prepared in a central kitchen and delivered to the centres in zonal clusters. With catered meals, the centres can benefit from time and cost savings from grocery planning and food preparation; enjoy economies of scale in food preparation and logistics delivery through demand aggregation; and can redesign jobs of cooks to assist teachers. The catered meals are of consistent quality and meet nutritional standards set by the Health Promotion Board’s Healthy Meals in Childcare Centres Programme.

3. Manpower has been a challenge for the pre-school industry and this includes recruiting and retaining cooks. The centralised meal catering project has eased the cooks from grocery shopping, food preparation, cooking and dish-washing to take on higher value jobs such as basic care duties for pre-schoolers and preparation of teaching aids for lessons. The job redesign improves the job scope of cooks who are mostly mature workers and also provide teachers with assistance so that they can focus on engaging children and provide better quality teaching. There are ongoing initiatives to help the cooks upgrade through training programmes.

4. At a learning journey to TwinkleKidz@Bendemeer, Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say and Minister of State, Ministry of Manpower and Mayor North East District Teo Ser Luck, were updated on the upcoming plans following the industry-led centralised meal catering project. 79% (26 out of 33) of the pre-school centres which completed the pilot have committed to a one-year contract to continue serving catered meals for preschool children. In addition, three new centres have signed on. Based on the positive feedback and interest, ASSETS and e2i will continue to reach out to more pre-school centres. There are also other productivity and cost-saving initiatives by ASSETS in the pipeline, including smart IT solutions which will support teachers in their work, and bulk purchasing for pre-school supplies and zonal bus services.

5. Mr Tan Choon Shian, Chief Executive of WSG, said, “WSG has partnered ASSETS to roll out the Centralised Meal Catering Project through the LED Scheme, which supports companies to become more manpower-lean, build a stronger Singaporean core, and develop a better quality workforce. This LED project has helped preschool operators make better use of available resources to manage their daily functional needs and support the rapidly expanding pre-school sector amidst tight manpower situation. We are happy to know that the project has garnered strong support from the sector, and will continue to actively reach out to more companies to help them in their journey towards being manpower lean.”

6.  Mr Gilbert Tan, Chief Executive Officer of e2i said, “e2i has been working closely with the pre-school industry for recruitment, training and productivity needs. One of the concerns was hiring and retaining of cooks which spurred us to partner with ASSETS to explore more efficient ways. By tapping on ASSETS’s industry network and e2i’s expertise in creating skills and productivity solutions, this first-of-its-kind centralised meal catering project will pave the way for more industry-led solutions to help the growing childcare sector. We plan to outreach to more pre-school centres, especially SME operators, to improve productivity, provide higher value jobs for childcare workers, and benefit children with healthier meals and better care.”

7. Mr Robert Leong, Vice-Chairman of ASSETS added: “We are inspired by the benefits that the centralised meal catering project brings to pre-schools. Children now are able to enjoy a variety of menu for their lunches and parents are happy with the consistency of healthier food. Teachers and principals are also able to focus on the children’s learning, as a result of increased productivity.”

8. ASSETS encourages more pre-schools to come on board the centralised meal catering project. Interested pre-school owners or operators can contact ASSETS for more information.