Question: We want to send a care package to a friend or family member serving in the military overseas. What precautions should we take?
Answer: Sharing holiday cheer with men and women serving in the military is a good thing to do. It shows these soldiers that they are remembered and appreciated by their family, friends and the community. And, it helps them feel connected when they are so far away from home for the holidays. Do your homework before sending a package. The military has guidelines for shipping food items to soldiers overseas. One Web site, http://www.marineparents.com, says “if you can stuff it in your pocket and it’s not going to spoil or melt, it’s a good thing to send!”
But first, be aware:
— Do not send any items that require refrigeration, including soft cheeses or fresh fruit.
— Don’t ship any food items in glass containers (the glass could break on the trip).
— Pork and pork by-products are not allowed to be sent to Middle East locations. This could include beef jerky-type products; read the label.
— High-moisture products, like banana bread, moist brownies, pumpkin and cream pies, or products including cream cheese, could mold or spoil before arriving to their destination. The U.S. Postal Service says priority parcels take 10 to 15 days to deliver to military locations overseas; parcel post takes about 24 days.
— Chocolate chips or chunks could melt if sent to hot climates.
— Fragile or brittle cookies may not make it in one piece unless especially well-packed. Some experienced shippers recommend testing first: Pack a box and shake it for a few minutes, then open up to see how well the contents survived.
— Cookies and other baked goods should be individually or wrapped in pairs, back-to-back, with plastic wrap or foil. Then put them in an airtight container — either a tin or a rigid plastic container works just fine — before putting in a shipping carton with plenty of packing material. Standard circular or square goods generally resist breaking; cookies in the shape of stars or other irregular shapes will likely arrive in pieces.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline offers other recommendations for food gifts for overseas military personnel:
— Fudge, pralines, toffee and hard candies -- their high sugar content prevents bacterial growth.
— Dehydrated soups, fruit drink mixes, beef or poultry jerky, crackers and dried fruit — their low moisture content prevents bacteria growth.
— Canned nuts and fruit, and commercially packaged trail mix.
— Condiments such as hot sauce or Cajun seasonings in packets.
— Shelf-stable specialty items, including canned ham (though not to the Middle East), anchovies, pate, shrimp, and dips and cracker spreads.
Check the Web site listed above, with the appropriate military service branch, or with the individual who will receive the package for items needed or wanted, and that will ship well.
Source: Martha Filipic, Chow Line, Ohio State University Extension.
Deb Angell is the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator for Huron County’s Ohio State University Extension Office, 180 Milan Avenue, Suite 1, Norwalk, OH 44857. She can be reached by phone at (419) 668-8219 or via e-mail at email@example.com.