Feeding AUSMAT: communities abroad and at home

09 Mar 2023

From dehydrated smoothies and breakfast bars, bean bolognaise or coconut and ginger chicken, the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC) prides itself on creating a ration pack that excels in providing key nutrients and meets dietary requirements for an Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT).

Food is the cornerstone of a successful deployment, however flavour isn’t the only important factor in preparing an AUSMAT ration pack. The NCCTRC are proactive in contributing to sustainability efforts while on deployment both at home and overseas. When considering food, alongside health and nutrition, the organisation’s environmental impact is of similar importance in remaining equipped, prepared and ready to respond.

The NCCTRC’s food cache is regularly restocked, rotated and assessed to ensure all stock is in date and fit for consumption. NCCTRC Planning and Research Officer Mrs Inda Acharya has been instrumental in implementing processes over the last ten years which ensure none of the food within the cache goes to waste.

“Waste management and mitigation is incredibly important in planning what food we stock in the cache and what is packed for team members on deployment. Aside from the fact that all our food is highly nutritious, all the food packaging and cutlery provided are recyclable or made of reusable materials,” she said.

“NCCTRC adheres to the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards, ensuring we meet regulations around best before dates and expiry of products which we then take into consideration in how we purchase and use food most effectively.”

Ms Inda Acharya
Supplied: Food Bank Northern Territory
Supplied: Food Bank Northern Territory

AUSMAT ration packs are prepared to feed an individual team member for a 72-hour period while the team embed themselves in a community post-disaster. Additionally, the teams are deployed with meal packs for patients and up to two family members while under the care of AUSMAT in our deployable EMT field hospital.

If the team is likely to be in-country for a two week or longer rotation, a full scale camp kitchen in constructed so AUSMAT personnel can prepare hot, culturally appropriate meals on-site for the team and the patients under their care.

“At the end of a deployment, we ensure surplus food is donated to the local community that have been effected, we recognise they are likely moving into a recovery phase and providing additional food or easy to prepare meals for those families who are rebuilding can be incredibly helpful,” Mrs Acharya said.

Beyond feeding the AUSMAT team and effected community, while on deployment, between AUSMAT responses the NCCTRC food cache similarly feeds those who may be displaced or disadvantaged within the Darwin community.

“It’s really important for our organisation in maintaining sustainable, ethical and environmental practise that we source all our food from local suppliers, and also donate food with a best before date within three to six months back into the local community,” Mrs Acharya said.

NCCTRC have been collaborating and donating to Foodbank Northern Territory over the last eight years, regularly donating dried and dehydrated foods, including biscuits, nuts and some dehydrated meals.

“More recently we have been donating a selection of wet pack foods which are easy to prepare and provide a very substantial meal to someone in need.”

Foodbank Northern Territory CEO Mr Peter Chandler said their organisation relies on the generous donations from Darwin’s corporate community.

“As the largest provider of food relief in the Northern Territory, Foodbank NT rely on the support of our generous donors in the top end to get food relief to where it is needed the most. In the past several years, we have received non-perishable food donations from NCCTRC to help feed those in need in our community,” he said.

“It is a sad reality that thousands of Territorians are experiencing severe food insecurity each week, over one third of these are children. With the rising cost of living putting significant extra pressure on already struggling individuals and families,

“In the last 12 months alone, Foodbank have worked with 180 charities and schools in the Northern Territory and have helped to put more than 1 million meals on the table of Territorians that would have otherwise gone without.”

NCCTRC value the opportunity to contribute to the community locally through organisations such as Foodbank NT, and overseas when responding to a sudden onset disaster or health emergency. Identifying and implementing sustainability related initiatives that have a positive ripple affect across the community is an ongoing priority for the organisation.

“As an organisation, I feel on every level we are committed to supporting and involving the greater community where possible. Giving back to the community is vital and is a core value for us and all the work we do at NCCTRC,” Ms Acharya concluded.

Ration Packs
AUSMAT; Australian Medical Assistance Team; NCCTRC; National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre

Gabrielle Lyons
Communications and Digital Engagement Officer

Gabrielle joined the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre in 2021 as Communications and Digital Engagement Officer, supporting media requests, social media coverage and operational requirements for NCCTRC and AUSMAT while on deployment. Gabrielle comes to the NCCTRC with substantial experience as a radio and digital journalist, most recently producing for ABC’s flagship program Radio National Drive with Patricia Karvelas and supporting Afternoon Briefing on ABC News 24, a program dedicated to current affairs and political analysis. Gabrielle specialises in Asia-Pacific politics and human interest feature writing. Beyond Australian borders, Gabrielle has also co-created and hosted an international travel podcast, which was nominated for Best Australian Podcast of 2019. You can follow Gabrielle on Twitter @gj_lyons