Mailing Food Gifts to the Military

Pamela Schmutz
Home & Garden Information Center

Don’t miss the post office recommended dates for mailing packages to service members waiting for holiday cheer from back home! The date for sending first-class and priority mail to Afghanistan and Iraq is no later than December 4th, and December 11th to other areas. The deadline for Express Mail (which is more expensive and not available for Iraq and Afghanistan) is December 18th. To mail a package overseas, you will have to fill out a customs form listing every item and its value, so be sure you have that information before sealing the package. The post office will provide the customs form which will then be attached to the outside of the package. The most important thing to remember when mailing food to service members is to choose foods that:

  • are not perishable;
  • can tolerate a range of temperatures; and
  • won’t break with rough handling.

For security reasons, mail will not be delivered to “Any Serviceman”, but must have a name and address on the package. For detailed information on foods that can be safely mailed to people in the military and instructions on packaging, see HGIC 3612, Mailing Food Gifts to the Military.

Postal Service officials provide these tips for mailing packages to service members:

  • If you use a regular box, use one strong enough to protect the contents. Cover all previous labels or markings with a heavy black marker or adhesive labels. Priority Mail Flat-Rate boxes are available at no charge at post offices. Free special military packaging kits can be ordered at 1-800-610-8734.
  • Cushion contents with newspaper, bubble wrap, or Styrofoam. Pack tightly to avoid shifting. Double box fragile items with cushioning inside and between the boxes to absorb shock.
  • Package food items like cookies, fudge, candies, etc. securely in leak-proof containers.
  • Tape the opening of the box and reinforce all seams with 2-inch wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape or paper tape.
  • Do not use wrapping paper, string, twine, masking tape, or cellophane tape outside the package.
  • Print your return address and the service member's complete name followed by unit and APO or FPO delivery address on one side only of the package.
  • Place a return address label and a list of contents inside the package.
  • Remove batteries from toys and appliances to avoid having them accidentally turn on during shipment. Wrap and place them next to the items inside.

For information on ordering mailing supplies from the post office on-line see

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