Over 13 million Humanitarian Daily Rations (HDRs) have been distributed by NGOs, international organisations and the US military since 1993. In that time, not a single technical end-user study of HDRs has been published. Nor have practical guidelines been established for HDR distribution or use. This paper seeks to establish a baseline of knowledge concerning HDRs, surveying their history, composition and distribution. Criticisms of the ration are reviewed. A comprehensive evaluation is required to understand and improve HDR distribution, end-use, perceptions, design and nutritional contents. HDRs must also be added to technical guidelines on planning nutritionally adequate rations.