Hot Sauce and Handiwipes: Eating on a Medical Mission Trip

Each volunteer clinic setting calls for a few slight variations, but here's my Master List of dining necessities required to not just survive, but thrive, in this unique environment.

I Need to Bring What?

I'm quite used to packing for trips. There are always the usual suspects. Clothing. Toiletries. Makeup. A book or magazine. Maybe even a parka or thick socks for cold weather. But it was quite another thing entirely when I found out the preparation I need to put into packing for a volunteer clinic. Specifically.... food!

Coming Prepared, And Then Some

At every clinic, I and my Amazing Cohort (in this space I lovingly call her "B.") bring our own food. Also at every clinic, we get bewildered looks and some pointed questions, both from others volunteering on the clinic and local residents and hosts. Why in the world would we haul food across the world, when these gracious local hosts have assured us that the food they have prepared is absolutely safe?? Well, there is one big reason.

THAT, my friend, is some serious gourmet.

Many volunteers contribute to the overall success of any mission trip. Some work in the clinic, screening patients, and determining treatment. There are those that prep patients before their surgery. Those that are translating languages constantly throughout the day, helping patients understand what the team is saying to them about their condition, and vice versa.

These people are working their tails off all day! And usually in insane heat and humidity. I don't envy them one bit!

There is one blessing in these roles, though. If any of these individuals were to suddenly feel ill - possibly just for a few hours, or in the worst cases potentially for several days - there's usually someone else who can pinch-hit and fill in the gaps without slowing the process too much.

However, there are also those folks in the Operating Room. The surgeon himself, and his trained assisting staff (that's us!). If the doctor or his immediate assistant were to fall ill..... well, that has the potential to shut down the entire operation. Because of this, our O.R. team chooses to take zero chances with the food we're putting in our bodies.

Different people have different interpretations of the word "clean".

Thank You Justin's Almond Butter

This means we have to pack accordingly, and we also have to get pretty creative sometimes. Our suitcases are filled with canned chicken, precooked rice, trail mix, you name it. Yes, over a 5- to 8-day clinic it starts to get prettttty mundane, so we work hard to keep things interesting! Here's my ever-expanding list... so far:

  • Plastic utensils

  • Tupperware containers

  • Anti-bacterial wipes

  • Can opener

  • Small knife

  • Canned goods - tuna, chicken, beans, veggies

  • Salami, non-refrigerated

  • 90-second rice

  • Hard-boiled eggs - at least 6

  • Trail mix

  • Dried fruit (including my beloved prunes!)

  • Crunchy tortilla strips

  • Rice crackers

  • Single-serving Justin's al