“Hairnet Hero” follows Lula, a long-suffering nutritional director.

In the past year, our reporters have examined the state of nutrition in our nation’s public schools. From lightning-fast lunch periods to the tempting – and unhealthy – treats offered just outside cafeteria doors, we’re taking a look at the bigger picture when it comes to what kids eat in school.

We’re also looking to involve a critical new audience in the discussion: the students themselves. One of the ways we’re going to do this is through our first news game: “Hairnet Hero.” We’ve been developing the game since last fall’s TechRaking Two conference at IGN in San Francisco, and we are about a month away from launching it to students, parents, teachers and viewers around California and the nation.

“Hairnet Hero” follows Lula, a long-suffering nutritional director, as she attempts to give students at her school a healthy, balanced lunch. The principal, teachers and kids are all on her case about the cost, nutrition and taste of her lunches, and the consequences of serving unbalanced meals to her students can be dire.

“Hairnet Hero,” which will be part of our Junior Watchdogs page for kids, will give players the opportunity to create their own meals with real menu items taken from public schools across California. We’re also developing other components, like an activity book and finger-puppet video for parents and teachers to use when discussing nutrition, as well as a goodie bag filled with fun reminders about healthy eating.

The entire package will be available in early October. We’re really excited and hope you are, too. If you’d like more information on partnering with us to bring “Hairnet Hero” to your school, contact me at mmcintosh@cironline.org. You also can sign up for our regular newsletter so you can stay up to date on the launch of the project. Learn more on our Start Something page.

Marie McIntosh is a news engagement specialist at The Center for Investigative Reporting, focusing on Junior Watchdogs, CIR's hub for information for kids. Marie works closely with the editorial team to find stories that affect kids, parents and teachers. Those stories cover nutrition, safety, education and more. Marie manages the production of video games and activity books and develops resources that engage kids and their families. She also supports CIR's events. Previously, she was the editorial assistant and social media manager for The Bay Citizen, which merged with CIR in 2012. Before that, Marie worked in textbook publishing in Boston.