Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to Send Cookies to Soldiers

My mother-in-law's son has been sent overseas to join the troops there, and we recently got an email from her with the address to send him letters, care packages, etc.

She found some excellent info about how to bake/pack/ship cookies to send overseas, and it looks so very helpful, I thought I would include it here.

The part in italics was written by my mother-in-law, and the rest is from The Cookie Lady (I'm honestly not sure whether the very last line is a joke, or not).

If you feel motivated to bake, below are tips from The Cookie Lady, who has sent 1.6 million cookies to service personnel in the Middle East. She has “crumbs” who help with the baking. (Brett’s personal favorite is choco chip.) During summer, M&Ms should be used instead of chips – and avoid sending other choco products, as they won’t survive the 115 degree daytime temps.

Baking:


I use the recipes off the packages of chocolate chips and oats. If you do not have time to bake from scratch, "extra moist" or cake mix that contains pudding makes a very good cookie. The basic recipe is 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 2 large eggs per box. You can be creative by adding Rice Krispies, raisins, white chocolate chips, M&M's, etc. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes (but underbake at least one minute).
If you send peanut butter cookies or any cookies that contain nuts, please label each bag "contains nuts."

Underbake the cookies about one minute to preserve the freshness.

In humid environments, add 1/2-1 tsp. of baking powder per batch.

Chocolate chip (substitute with M&M's May-October), oatmeal-raisin, peanut butter and snickerdoodles are the most popular cookies.

Freeze the cookies until you are ready to ship them.

Avoid sending moist breads (such as banana bread) during humid summer months--they mold quickly.

Packing:

I use regular fold-top sandwich bags, no zip-locks. Put 6 cookies front to back in the bags and twist-tie them. It will look something like a "tube." (see photo). Be generous with your packing material which can be Styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap, plastic grocery bags, or shredded paper. Nest the cookies in the packing material. With careful packing, you can get 5 dozen cookies, individual packets of drink mix, i.e., cocoa, tea bags, Kool-Aid, etc., hard candy and your letter in each box.
Any toiletries should be packed in separate boxes from the cookies.

Include notes to the soldiers thanking them for their service to the country. Ask them for names and addresses of other soldiers, especially those who get little/no mail.

Due to the large number of boxes we send and the increase in postage, for individual requests we are using the new Flat Rate Box #1 which measures 12x12x5 1/2. Effective January 18, 2009,shipping costs for the Large Flat Rate boxes for Military are $11.95. The Small Flat Rate boxes are $10.35. These "Priority Mail" boxes, the customs forms (I use 2976-A) and pre-printed return address labels come in units of 25 and are available at no charge. Simply go to the USPS website or call 1-800-222-1811. These supplies will be delivered to you at no charge. For only a few boxes and customs forms, visit your local Post Office.

Once the box is full, shake it to ensure that nothing is moving. Add more packing if necessary, especially in the corners.

Make sure that all boxes are securely taped. Seal all edges of the box.

Shipping:


You must have the name and address of a specific soldier.

A customs form is required. On form 2976-A there is a space asking what you want to happen to the box if your soldier is not available. I check "abandon." Also write in, "Do not return." Your postal employees will assist you in filling out the form if necessary. I suggest you have your box ready for shipment before you get to the Post Office. It is not necessary to leave the box unsealed for inspection by the postal employees.

Some restrictions: No alcohol, no pornographic or suggestive materials, no pork, no bulk shipments of religious material. If in doubt, check with your Post Office.

If the cookies are too hard by the time of arrival overseas, the soldiers can use them as weapons.

UPDATE ON THIS STORY from my mother-in-law:

One caution -- folks in general should NOT send homemade treats to
soldiers they don't know. Soldiers have been instructed to throw away
homemade items from strangers. For their own safety, I guess. It helps
prevent food-related allergic reactions, illness from unsanitary
preparations, and outright tampering with the food. Store-bought goodies
only -- and NO choco at this time of year. The Girl Scout cookies will
remain in the freezer until winter!

My Care Kit arrived on my doorstep yesterday. Six boxes: 2 med, 2
medium-document shape (like a shirt box) and 2 large boxes, special
packing tape, mailing labels and customs forms. Very nice for the P.O.
to do that for our service personnel.

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