How to Send Food for Gifts

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Many people enjoy sending edible care packages to family and friends via mail. Not only do loved ones get to enjoy a small "taste of home," but it can also be comforting for children away at summer camp or college students far from home. Soldiers stationed in faraway lands will also appreciate a gift box filled to the brim with their favorite treats. When sending food by mail, it is important to follow a few basic guidelines to ensure safe transport and to prevent food-borne bacteria or illness.

  • Choose the type of food to send. The best choices are foods that are prepackaged and nonperishable, such as dry soup packets, canned items, crackers, dehydrated fruits, hard candy and chewing gum. Other suggested items include coffee, tea, hot cocoa mix, peanut butter, snack chips, breakfast or nutrition bars, trail mix and dry cereal.

  • Consider sending homemade baked goods in the package. Cookies are good candidates for adding to a care package, provided that you are shipping domestically. Package the cookies in a plastic food container. Appropriate cookies for shipment include drop-style, sandwich and bar varieties. Avoid sending delicate wafer-type cookies since they are apt to crumble and break in the mail.

  • Know which foods are not appropriate to ship. For example, avoid sending liquids in the mail, since they can easily spill from their container or packaging. Do not send baked goods with a high moisture content such as muffins, which can quickly become moldy, especially in humid or hot weather. And anything that is perishable must be kept in an insulated deep-freeze Styrofoam container with dry ice to maintain a consistent temperature of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit while in overnight transit to its destination. Even the slightest deviation from ideal conditions can cause bacteria to grow, which can result in a myriad of food-borne illnesses. Leave shipping perishable items such as meats, fish, chicken, cheese and fresh and frozen items to food service companies and cooking services that specialize in preparing and shipping these items directly to the consumer.

  • Watch the weather before shipping a package containing any kind of food, even nonperishable items. Very hot summer weather can be problematic because some food items can melt or go bad. And in extremely cold weather, there are often shipping delays due to inclement weather, snow and ice. The best time to send food is during periods of relatively cool weather such as the spring, later summer, fall and early winter.

  • Wrap and prepare to ship your food gift package. All items in the package should be neatly placed into a cardboard box with crumpled newspaper, shredded paper, bubble wrap or packing peanuts as filler to prevent shifting and breakage. Tape the box with packing tape to seal the box shut.

  • Determine which type of shipping is most appropriate for the items you are sending. For a box with no perishable item, standard mail will suffice. If you are sending cookies, however, it is best to ship either overnight, 2-day or USPS priority mail to ensure that your package arrives in a timely fashion.

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