Michigan lamb to be offered on school lunch menu

Grand Rapids-area high school students are being offered lamb in a pita (Kafta) during their school lunch on April 18.

On April 18, high school students in the Grand Rapids area will have the opportunity to eat Michigan lamb during their lunch break. For the past several months, partners from Michigan State University Extension, the Michigan Sheep Breeders Association, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, Wolverine Packing Co., Gordon Food Services and the food service directors from Grand Rapids and Kentwood public schools have been collaborating to provide an opportunity to enjoy Michigan lamb during school lunch.

In the spring of 2012, Wolverine Packing Co. donated 10 pounds of fresh Michigan ground lamb to food service directors Paul Baumgartner and Mo Shamali. The two directors offered a taste test to a group of high school students and received an enthusiastic and positive response. When the 2013 school year started, the partners began a more concerted effort to make the necessary supply chain connections in order to make this lunchroom opportunity available to all students.

The eclectic menu option was important to Baumgartner and Shamali, and they wanted to ensure it was indeed a Michigan product that was being offered to their students. They also felt it was important that an educational component be offered alongside the dining experience. Staff from MSU Extension assembled cultural and nutritional information for school personnel to share with students.

The lamb will be offered to students as kafta (lamb in pita) with a tatzaki sauce. Sugar snap peas, fresh grapes and milk will accompany the kafta to complete the menu. The kafta recipe will include fresh Michigan ground lamb, fresh parsley, spanish onions, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper and dry mint.

Lamb meat is packed full of protein, with lean lamb offering 48 percent of the daily value (DV) of protein. It is also a great source for B-vitamins. Lamb offers 37 percent DV of vitamin B-12, important in body cell function and the nervous system, and 27 percent DV of niacin, important for healthy skin, nerves and digestion. Zinc is also available in lamb with 30 percent DV being provided in the average 3-ounce serving. This important mineral is needed for a healthy immune system and to help the body repair tissue, form enzymes and insulin.

Another result of these discussions between MSU Extension and the Michigan Sheep Breeders Association members might see local sheep producers partnering with restaurants in the Grand Traverse area to offer local lamb on their menus.

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