Feeding an army
It takes three meals a day and 18 months of planning to feed an army. “We work very hard to kind of pre-plan our stuff,” said Tim McCagherty, the acting operations officer of the Polar Continental Shelf Project at the Arctic Training Centre in Resolute, Nu., where almost 200 Canadian and American reservists spent a week conducting a training mission, Exercise Arctic Ram. McCagherty and his staff started ordering supplies for the exercise in January 2015. They arrived from Yellowknife at the ATC in September. But things don’t always go according to plan. In the harsh high arctic desert, the smallest winds can cause visibility problems, delaying or even cancelling flights, something that happened multiple times during the exercise. Christopher Slaughter, the ATC’s kitchen supervisor and cook, said “people not leaving when they’re expected to leave” is the biggest challenge he faces in the arctic. “We’re having to adjust out meal plans daily,” he said – a difficult task when breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are outlined a year in advance and it takes four cooks five or six hours to prepare each meal – the same amount of notice the kitchen normally gets when flights are delayed. “I know they’ve been stuck for a while, so I’ve been adjusting to meals that we can prepare in three or four hours,” he said. But extended stays don’t just mean cutting down on preparation time. Midway through the week, some reservists noticed the kitchen’s open fridges – normally full of fresh fruit, cold cuts, milk, juice boxes and desserts – were slowly depleted, and the multi-course buffet-style meals included less salads and chicken and more fish sticks and hot dogs. “With this many people, there are some foods we just can’t continually run,” Slaughter said, noting fresh milk was the first thing to go. “It’s something we run out of. We can’t get enough of it. “We have a lot of frozen foods. It’s just the fresh ones that basically get cut out. We can’t sustain that for too long. Not with this number.” Still, as many of the reserves jokes, limited hot meals still beat army rations.
Danielle Doiron near Resolute, Nunavut.