Just Grab and Go

New UPA program provides free snacks to all students, fulfilling and exceeding Assembly Bill 1871.


Alexandra Rozmarin

This photo illustration depicts, from left to right, eighth grader Chelsea Nguyen laughing while opening a granola bar and eighth grader Jasmine Dang picking up an apple. Nguyen has taken apples and oranges from Grab-n-Go while Dang has taken milk and apples.

Editor’s note: The following article is a continuation of What’s in a Meal? published in Vol. VIII Issue III of Aquila’s newsmagazine.

Free snacks are not a new concept to UPA’s student body. 

Otter Pops or free popcorn are regularly distributed during ASB-sponsored events like Fun Fridays; a shelf in the counseling office is often stocked with snacks like granola bars and fruit cups; and attendance clerk Dorene McClung is known to occasionally put out candy in the main office for students who say “please” and “thank you.”

Now, with the addition of Grab-n-Go, it is even easier for students to satisfy their hunger—but now within federal nutrition regulation.

The Grab-n-Go center, located in the Family Life Center’s upstairs hallway adjacent to Executive Director David Porter’s office, includes one mini fridge and various cabinets that are available during regular school hours.

Stocked with 1% milk, fresh fruit like apples and oranges and various types of granola bars like Nature Valley, the program aims to fulfill Assembly Bill (AB) 1871 by providing nutritious snacks to students who are hungry. 

The new law—passed on Sept. 18, 2018, by Governor Gavin Newsom—requires California charter schools to provide free, nutritionally adequate meals only to low-income students starting in the 2019-2020 school year, but UPA’s Grab-n-Go is accessible to all students.

“This program is for students who did not have breakfast because they forgot or maybe do not have breakfast or food items at home to bring to school,” Director of Student Services Andrew Yau said, “and we thought if we are offering it to those students, then we should just offer it for everyone.”

Because administrators chose to provide breakfast, Grab-n-Go follows the federal guidelines for a healthy breakfast: low-fat or 1% milk, a fruit and a grain.

Alexandra Rozmarin
Although halfway through lunch, Grab-n-Go’s counters are stocked to the brim with granola bars and fresh fruit.

When sophomore Ashritha Cheeyandira did not bring a snack and was hungry, she decided to take one of the Nature Valley Nut and Oat granola bars provided. 

“I think it [Grab-n-Go] is really valuable,” Cheeyandira said. “A bunch of kids I am friends with do not really bring food to school, especially for lunch, so this really will help them.”

History teacher Steve Guevara, whose classroom shares a hall with Grab-n-Go, also believes the program is a worthwhile addition to UPA’s campus.

“Kids need to eat,” Guevara said. “We expect brilliance out of them, and how are we to expect that if they are not feeling their best?”

The snacks located in Grab-n-Go are meant for students who are hungry during meal times, but Yau warns that if students are found to be abusing the program, UPA might shorten Grab-n-Go’s hours to only one portion of the day.

“I’ve seen some students take 10 granola bars,” Yau emphasized. “That means that those 10 granola bars aren’t going to people that are hungry at the time, and the whole purpose is not to feed someone for three days straight.”

Yau also quipped that hoarding Grab-n-Go’s snacks only encourages healthy eating.

“I’ve been joking around with some people and saying, ‘Well if someone is hoarding five apples then that should be a good thing because apples are healthy,’” he said.

Yau estimates that keeping the program alive means spending $400 to $450 a week, but Assistant to the Director of Operations Jan Rogers says it is too early to tell and budgeting could fluctuate depending on the needs of students.

This estimated cost does not include the price of investing in a vacuum cleaner to remove crumbs from the carpet in Grab-n-Go’s vicinity if deemed necessary.

“We have got two big garbage cans there so just walk two feet and put your garbage in the garbage can,” Yau concluded. “We want to be able to offer something for our students but also feel good about students being responsible back.”