2023 National School Lunch Week: Level Up with School Lunch

October 9-13, 2023

Facts are facts: Kids these days love video games, and #NSLW23’s theme takes full advantage of that. While it might seem at first glance that video games run contradictory to the goal of getting students more active, that’s not necessarily the case now. Think about how many active video games are available, from Pokémon Go, which emphasizes a ton of walking, to the upbeat, motion-heavy Just Dance.

It’s easy to make a link between nutritious foods and videos games, too! In so many video games, when a character is low on energy or health, what do they do? They power up by finding food items (Remember, it’s the mushrooms that make Mario grow big and strong!)

While you can focus on a generic video game aesthetic (take cues from the retro, pixelated official #NSLW23 artwork), you might find more success with popular games and characters. Each age group from K-12 has games that resonate with them. Instead of choosing your favorite games, do a poll that asks the students (perhaps as they come through the serving line), “What’s your favorite game?” With the knowledge of what your specific students love, you can lean into those games with your decoration and celebration ideas. It can help the students feel involved in the week and make it more relatable to your school.

Word of caution: Before you get too into using popular characters in your celebrations, remember that they are trademarked and/or copyrighted. Always make sure you’re using officially licensed merchandise to stay in the clear!

As always, we encourage you and your co-workers to go all in and to dress up (or, as the video game community might say, cosplay!) Serve lunch dressed up as a popular character, and encourage students to join in by wearing their video game-themed clothing. It could make for fun photo opportunities if a group can dress up as characters from the same game!

The SNA Shop is your cheat code for #NSLW23 success! Starting early this summer, you’ll be able to purchase easy decorations such as posters and banners, as well as cups, water bottles, stickers and more. SNA’s NSLW website also has free printable resources, such as activity and coloring sheets.

To add more players (i.e. more school lunch participants!) to your lunchroom, get creative with food names and menu terms! Milk and fruit and vegetable juices can become “health potions” or “mana potions,” grab-and-go items can become “XP boosters” (XP meaning experience points), main and side dishes can be “main quests” and “side quests.” Simply changing the name of the item already is creating a more playful atmosphere for this gaming theme!

Video games can be more than just entertainment; it is also a door into a computer science career. Partner with the library to highlight video game-themed books and with computers and software or with teachers for lesson plans on coding. This can create a more holistic approach to the theme and engage students in learning about the video game industry beyond just playing games.

This is not “game over,” but only the beginning of your journey to Leveling Up with School Lunch!