September 23, 2018

USDA Offers Tips on Sending Care Packages to U.S. Military

This holiday season, many people are sending care packages to those in the U.S. military who can’t be home for the season. The USDA is offering tips about the best things to mail and how to make sure the foods you send stay safe to eat.

Care PackageFood gifts that are mailed should not be perishable. The foods should also be able to tolerate a range of temperatures and not break even with rough handling. The recommended foods for mailing include dried products such as jerky and fruits, shelf stable canned foods, and condiments such as hot sauce that could be used to add flavor to MREs. Homemade cookies, candy, and low-moisture breads and bar cookies are also recommended.

Mail order foods are a good choice too. Any shelf stable food that you can order online can be sent to military personnel. Those foods include “summer sausages,” cheeses, cakes, and snacks. Don’t order any food items that must be kept refrigerated, because of delivery times and distances between duty stations. Even dry ice will not last as long as some shipping times. Dehydrated soups and fruit drink mixes are a good choice. Canned specialties such as pate, anchovies, and dips are a good choice too.

High moisture baked goods are not a good choice, because they may grow mold easily. Fragile foods like delicate cookies won’t make the trip intact. Hard candies and homemade foods such as praline, toffee, and fudge are safe to mail because their high sugar content prevents bacterial growth. And they are sturdy enough to survive a long trip through the mail.

Do not mail perishable foods that must be kept refrigerated, such as meat, poultry, fish, seafood, egg dishes, and soft cheeses. Foodborne bacteria on those foods can double every 20 minutes above the temperature of 40 degrees F.

When packing foods for mailing, wrap each piece individually and pack in commercial foam or peanuts to help cushion the items against damage or breakage. Place the pieces in a sturdy box and seal with good and solid packing tape. Make sure you clearly label the package with the name and address. No mail labeled “Any Serviceman” will be delivered.

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