USDA Administrator eats school lunch with Little Rock kids

(KATV) Little Rock - We took you into a school this year after they made changes to healthier food. For that story, click here. Friday, a USDA representative made a surprise visit to Little Rock students during lunch.

It's the Healthy, Hunger - Free Kids Act championed by the First Lady and signed into law by President Obama. The regulations are one part of a broad effort to improve health and fitness in children. We're several months into the new meal plan and kids are still picky, but USDA Administrator, Audrey Rowe was a big help (today).

Rowe sits with students and asks about the meal. "Do you like the quesadilla?" A student says, "I love quesadillas."

Rowe showed up to Martin Luther King Elementary in time for lunch. She bought a tray and helped some kids learn they actually like the food if they'd just try it. Rowe and the kids count "One two three." They all take a bite of black beans the kids refused to eat earlier and one girl shouts, "taste good." But not everyone was so daring.

Rowe says the problem with wasted food is getting better, "We are talking to states and getting a sense of what the challenges are but to the extent to go back to unhealthy items, absolutely not."

The big obstacle now is having enough time to eat because it's more food, but fewer calories. "It takes a few extra minutes to chew the vegetables and the new fruits they're getting. If they don't have enough time to finish, it ends up being thrown away."

Instead of frozen food like chicken nuggets and French fries it is all prepared fresh daily. The new lunch regulations require larger servings of fruits and vegetables plus whole grains.

The food is purchased in bulk so it is not more expensive and as long as schools document the balanced meal plans, they get an extra 6-cents per meal from the state.

Rowe is also in town touring programs available for low income families. "What I wanted was to get a sense of how is Arkansas addressing the issue of childhood hunger and they seem to be doing a great job."

The USDA would also like to implement more programs for kids to learn about healthy foods.

Rowe is well aware of all the YouTube videos and complaints about food portions. She says kids are not turned away if they want more fruits or vegetables. The complaints are in the minority and she says when there's change, you're going to be challenged.