CORVALLIS - The care package is a traditional favorite morale booster among military men and women who serve our country overseas Friends and family of Oregon soldiers and sailors are sending many care packages to the arid Middle East. Some careful planning will help ensure your care package arrives safe and sound.

"If food is included, it should be non-perishable, heat-tolerant, and resistant to rough handling," said Carolyn Raab, foods and nutrition educator with the Oregon State University Extension Service. "Moist foods like pumpkin bread might mold. Real chocolate chips in cookies might melt, and delicate cookies might break.

"To avoid spoilage, send dry or semi-dry foods that don't require refrigeration," Raab said. "When moisture is low, microorganisms can't grow."

Raab suggests there are a number of safe alternatives:

  • Thoroughly dried beef jerky and commercially dried fruit with added preservatives.
  • Powdered fruit drink mixes.
  • Commercially-packaged snacks, popcorn, crackers, cookies, ready-to-eat cereals, granola and trail mix.
  • Vacuum-packaged nuts and individually wrapped hard candies such as toffee.

Dense and dry baked foods such as biscotti mail well and shouldn't mold, Raab added. Oatmeal cookies, unfrosted brownies and other bar cookies will arrive in good condition if they aren't super moist, she said.

Although sugar cookies and gingersnaps aren't perishable, they might break. Raab suggests wrapping cookies individually in plastic wrap to protect them. Then use unbuttered popped corn to cushion the cookies as you pack them in a container such as a coffee can or other plastic airtight container with lid.

"Place the food gifts in a sturdy box," said Raab. "Add baby wipes or moist towelettes for hand washing. Seal the box securely with packing tape. Then address to the recipient as required by the military."

For further information about safe food gifts, contact the Oregon State University Extension Food Safety/Preservation Hotline at 1-800-354-7319. Certified volunteers and staff will answer calls 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except holidays, through Oct. 15.

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Carolyn Raab, 541-737-1019