Humanitarian Daily Ration Review
Date: 19 January 2010
The Humanitarian Daily Ration (HDR) is a ready-to-eat meal similar to the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) used by the US military. HDRs were developed as a means of feeding large populations of displaced persons or refugees under emergency conditions. A single HDR is designed to provide a full day’s sustenance to a moderately malnourished individual (as opposed to MREs, where three are intended to feed a soldier for one day in the field). HDRs also differ from MREs in that they contain no animal products or by-products so as to be acceptable to a wide range of consumers with religious and dietary restrictions. Each HDR contains approximately 2200 calories.
The HDR I’m reviewing here is from early 2003. Most HDRs distributed as aid are less than a year old but in this case, the only HDR I had on hand was 7 years old. But that’s ok – HDRs, like MREs, seem to hold up very well over time as long as they are stored properly and in this case, all the parts of the HDR were still fresh-tasting and as delicious as they could be.
The menu being reviewed is Menu 5 from The Wornick Company. As you can see on the HDR menus page, Menu 5 could be one of three different variations. In my case, I received Menu 5C:
Red Beans & Rice
Biscuit (2 pack MRE crackers)
Vegetable Crackers (2 pack)
Fruit Bar (2 oz. Fig)
Fruit Pastry (2 pack)
Shortbread (1 bar)
Lentil Stew. This entree probably tastes “ok” when it’s cold, but heated up (and I heated up both entrees for 15 minutes in boiling water), it’s incredibly delicious! The second picture is of the Lentil Stew in the pouch it comes in.
Red Beans & Rice. Beans and rice aren’t the most palatable when they’re cold. Even though the HDR entrees are fully cooked, they taste much better when they’re warmed up. In this case, the warmed-up Read Beans & Rice had terrific flavor!
Vegetable crackers and plain MRE crackers. These are your standard MRE vegetable and plain crackers – the vegetable version has a little more flavor than the plain but are a little more crumbly. In the third picture, the veggie crackers are on the left, plain crackers on the right.
Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam. The peanut butter and jam goes great on both crackers! I opened the packages this way to display the contents. Usually, you just tear off a corner and squeeze the contents out.
Fruit Pastry. I was curious as to what an MRE pastry would look like but as soon as I saw the inside packaging, I knew I was in for a treat – Pop Tarts! Yes, “fruit pastry” is slang for “toaster pastry” which is code for “Pop Tarts”. In this case, they were unfrosted Apple Cinnamon Pop Tarts. Very delicious and a great breakfast item.
After taking all the pictures (and eating all the food), I realized it would have been even better if I had grouped the items into meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast could be the Pop Tarts. Lunch could be an entree, crackers, and jam. Then dinner could be the remaining entree, crackers and peanut butter, and then the fig bar or shortbread cookie for dessert.
In an emergency situation, HDRs are a fine food alternative. One HDR bag should be enough food to get you through the day. They definitely don’t contain as much food as you’d get in three MREs but the menu selection is probably more acceptable to non-US consumers. You could do a lot worse than an HDR. I’ve tried a couple of HDR entrees in the past but those were eaten cold (at room temperature) and I didn’t much like them. But I warmed up these entrees and the difference was amazing – they had incredible flavor and could hold their own against any of my favorite MRE entrees.