The Ukrainian meal pack. Do the soldiers like it?


War in Donbas

Article by: Yevhen Solonyna
Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
Kyiv – Buckwheat and pearled barley, plain biscuits, tea, coffee, a bit of honey, canned veal and pate. One and a half kilos all together. This is the official meal pack per day the state provides to the soldiers of the Armed Forces, first and foremost those who fight in the east of Ukraine against the Russian army and mercenaries. Radio Liberty workers and students from Ukrainian universities. tried one of these meal packs.

The biscuits are very hard, one can break their teeth. The tea is the cheapest one can find in stores. The canned food is quite good, most people say. The tasters liked the availability of wet wipes. They were surprised by the total lack of food made of vegetables, fruit, dairy or at least a disposable spoon or fork.

The fighters from the ATO zone Radio Liberty spoke with admit that it is possible to survive with the state-issued meal packs, but they quickly grow tired of it, and it is unlikely to be healthy. Nutritionists are of the same opinion.

In particular, nutrition doctor and professor Oksana Skytalinska pointed towards the main disadvantages of such a meal.

“There are fats, proteins, carbohydrates, this is important in cold conditions. There are not enough food rich with vitamin C, which improve the immune system (the best things are rose hip extract, green tea or at least good quality pharmaceutical tablets). There are not enough products rich in phytocides – anti-virus, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds (garlic, onions, ginger root, curcuma powder). They need black chocolate or cocoa – antidepressants. They also need some dairy products – at least in capsules. And some plants as well – dried herbs, vegetables, dried fruit (raisins, prunes, dried apricots, apples or cherries),” explained Skytalynska to Radio Liberty.

Another piece of advise from the nutritionist: the fighter or leaders of military units have to know the nutritional value of their rations. The optimum is four to five thousand calories per day, like an athlete’s.

“The calorie deficit leads to a decline in the immune system, heightened susceptibility to colds or virus infections and makes the restoration of the body more difficult (after wounds or colds) and extends the recovery period,” Skytalynska sums up.

Volunteers “balance rations” with tons of cabbage and apples

Volunteer Myroslav Hay also says that the Ukrainian soldiers’ meal packs are sub-par compared to those of the armies in developed countries. Besides, he things that canned food in metal containers is too heavy for war conditions. A sniper or spy takes packs with 12 cans for three days. It is difficult to carry them, and they frequently take fewer packs to carry more bullets, explains the volunteer.

“There are two types of Ukrainian meal packs. Both are only enough not to die of hunger. However, they are insufficient to maintain health if eaten over a long period of time. The most important thing in the 20th century was for the soldier to eat well. They increased portions of bread and were the surprised at the scurvy epidemics. Foreign packs have a lot of vitamins. The fist pack I ate in the ATO zone was American. This is the aid that really reached the front line. Then these packs disappeared somewhere,” notes Hay.

According to the volunteer, his companions and him are trying to augment the soldiers’ rations with dried vegetables, fresh apples, cabbage and beets. Myroslav and his colleagues recently sent 1200 kilos of apples to three units. The volunteer calls for the advice of scientists to be taken into account when calculating the daily food norm for the soldiers.

Advisor to the Minister of Defense, who was formerly part of the volunteer community David Arakhniya told Radio Liberty that improving the soldiers’ meals is one of the priorities of the Defense Ministry, and that soon the producers and contents of the packs will change drastically.

“There are many issues with the soldiers’ food. We calculated that the food norm per day costs 17 UAH per person, but even the current list prescribed by the Defense Ministry costs 35 UAH. The Minister understands the problem, and most volunteers who came to work in the Ministry are trying to improve the food rations. Starting the new year, we will have a new budget and we will change the suppliers. But we are trying to amend the rations even before this happens,” assures Arakhniya.

At the same time, there are positive reviews in regard to Ukrainian meal packs. Some soldiers admit they taste better than the foreign ones as they have more meat.

Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina

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