Humanitarian daily ration

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Modern humanitarian daily ration

Humanitarian daily rations (HDRs) are food rations manufactured in the United States intended to be supplied to civilians and other non-military personnel in humanitarian crises.[1][2] Each is intended to serve as a single person's full daily food supply, and contain somewhat over 2,200 calories (9,200 kJ). They have shelf-lives of about 3 years, and their contents are designed to be acceptable to a variety of religious and ethnic groups. The meals cost approximately one-fifth of the cost of a Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE).[3] The rations were first used in Bosnia in 1993.[4]

From the time they were created and used in 1993 until November 2001, HDRs were packaged with a bright yellow outer plastic covering; this choice of color, however, proved to be problematic in areas of the world where cluster bombs were being used, as the bombs were the exact same shade of yellow and recipients of the rations sometimes confused the ration package for undetonated cluster bombs, often spotting the bright color from a distance and making an incorrect assumption; this prompted the United States Federal Government to reissue the packages with a deep salmon pink outer covering to distinguish them from the bombs (this color has been used in the HDR manufacturing process ever since).

The meals are designed to be able to survive being air-dropped without a parachute.[3] This is safer for refugees than parachuting large pallets of rations, as well as preventing meal hoarding by those able to seize a single, large delivery.

HDRs are also made available through organizations such as The Salvation Army to aid victims of poverty in the United States, and were distributed during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita to victims of the disasters by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Packaging and distribution[edit]

A leaflet, dropped in Afghanistan, announcing a program to drop humanitarian daily rations.
Humanitarian daily ration (1993–2001 yellow packaging) and typical contents on display at the National Air and Space Museum
Comparison of two "compact food" daily ration products, NRG-5 (by German MSI GmbH) and BP-5 (by Norwegian GC Rieber Compact).

The HDR packages are delivered in cases of packages, each containing a small selection of food items based on predetermined menus and an accessory pack containing red pepper, pepper, salt, sugar, spoon, matches, an alcohol-free moist towelette, and a napkin.[5][6]

HDRs are typically air-dropped into the disaster area on large pallets. The HDRs initially dropped in Afghanistan were yellow before it was realized that the packages were the same color as the bomblets in American cluster bombs, which were also dropped in Afghanistan.[5][7] Later packages were covered in salmon colored foil.[8]

HDRs produced by the United States are manufactured by the same companies that produce MREs designed for the United States Armed Forces. Like MREs, the food components are designed so they can be consumed without requiring additional preparation, including cooking. They do not, however, include flameless ration heaters, which are found in MREs.

Typical contents[edit]


Shelf life 36 months at 80 °F (27 °C)
Weight 30 ounces (850 g)
Calories at least 2,200 calories (9,200 kJ) per package
Protein content 10-13 percent
Fat content 27-30 percent
Carbohydrate content 60 percent
Prohibited contents The HDR is designed to "provide the widest possible acceptance from the variety of potential consumers with diverse religious and dietary restrictions from around the world".[9] It contains no animal products, except a limited amount of dairy products, below the limit that would cause a problem for a person with lactose intolerance. Any alcohol or alcohol-based ingredients are also banned.
Infant component All rations contain a fruit paste, or pudding, suitable for feeding to infants
Utensils All rations contain a spoon and a paper towel moistened with a non-toxic, non-alcoholic cleanser

United States program in Afghanistan[edit]

On October 15, 2001, the United States announced a humanitarian daily ration for Afghanistan.[10]

On October 24, 2001, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem announced fears that the Taliban planned to poison American food aid.[11] Stufflebeem said that since the program had been started on October 7, 2001 the United States had dropped 785,000 rations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "TECHNICAL DATA FOR HUMANITARIAN DAILY RATION" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 16, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2007.
  2. ^ Judith McCallum (Winter 2001). "Humanitarian Daily Rations: Being Ready is Half the Battle" (PDF). Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Retrieved October 18, 2007.[dead link]
  3. ^ a b c . "Humanitarian Daily Rations" (PDF). DSCA. Retrieved April 14, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "MEMORANDUM FOR CORRESPONDENTS". United States Department of Defense. August 2, 1995. Retrieved October 18, 2007. Hundreds of thousands of HDR's were first air-dropped over isolated Bosnian enclaves on November 22, 1993, as part of the humanitarian relief effort PROVIDE PROMISE. Since then, the food packets have fed thousands of refugees worldwide.
  5. ^ a b "Humanitarian Daily Rations (HDRs)". Retrieved July 26, 2007.
  6. ^ a b "Operational Rations". United States Defense Logistics Agency. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2007.
  7. ^ Albin R. Majewski (Winter 2001). "The Alphabet Soup of Combat Rations". United States Army. Archived from the original on August 18, 2007. Retrieved October 18, 2007.
  8. ^ Bill Dugan. "MICA Flex Studio 4th group". Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2007.
  9. ^ a b "Operational Rations of the Department of Defense, PAM 30-25" (PDF) (9th ed.). United States Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate. October 2012. p. 55. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 1, 2014. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  10. ^ "Humanitarian Aid to the Afghan People: Issued by the Office of International Information Programs October 15, 2001". United States Department of State. October 15, 2001. Archived from the original on July 14, 2007. Retrieved July 26, 2007.
  11. ^ "Defense Dept. Says Taliban May Attempt to Poison Afghan Food Aid". United States Department of State. October 25, 2001. Retrieved July 26, 2007. mirror

External links[edit]