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Forget homemade, parents order college care packages online

Parents looking to send a bit of love via post to their college students are increasingly sending commercially-made college care packages full of snacks and trinkets in lieu of homemade kits.

By Beth J. HarpazAssociated Press / September 20, 2013

Parents can send monthly college care packages complete with snacks, personal care supplies, and entertainment items to kids through online sites such as CoedSupply.com, Sept. 18, 2013.

AP Photo/CoedSupply.com, Andy Fortson

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New York

In the decade Sarah Tetley has worked with college students, she's seen a change in care packages sent from home.

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The box of homemade goodies "is something of a lost art," says Tetley, director of the First Year Experience program at Webster University in St. Louis. "And it's sad, because there's nothing like seeing a student get excited about a package from home."

The change is partly because parents are more in touch with kids, thanks to cell phones, than they used to be: "They don't send as many care packages because they just talked to them," Tetley said.

But it's also due to a rise in commercially prepared options – not just generic gift baskets, but care packages designed specifically for college kids. And those parents who do pack their own care packages are apt to skip homemade brownies in favor of laundry pods, and get their "ty" via text.

THE PREMADE CARE PACKAGE

GourmetGiftBaskets.com "started to see a trend emerge a few years ago" with more orders sent to campus addresses, according to spokesman Chuck Casto. So the New Hampshire-based company introduced products like the "Exam Cram Care Package," which includes microwave popcorn, cookies, candy, chips and pretzels. They've sold thousands of them, with sales up 75 percent this year over last.

Many colleges also offer in-house care package programs. At Connecticut College, parents can order the $35 "Birthday Bash," with a cake or cupcakes, or "Health Nut," with fresh fruit, rice cakes and yogurt smoothies, $25. The packages are made in a dining hall for same-day pickup.

Minimus.biz also offers a "College Student Care Package of the Month," with themed packages like the Dorm Laundry Kit and the Dorm Medicine Chest.

Andy Fortson, 27, co-founded CoedSupply.com after looking online for something to send to a brother in the Marines and a cousin at Penn State. "I was pretty appalled by the options," he said. "They were overpriced and full of junk food."

So he and a friend launched a hipper alternative last year with a monthly mix of health-food snacks, personal care items (like Old Spice or a new fragrance from Rihanna) and entertainment (such as CDs), ranging in price from $16.50 to $35 a month. "The response has been overwhelming," Fortson said. "We're already shipping to colleges in 45 states."

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