Not #onemorebox of Girl Scout Cookies

Share

not-one-more-box-girl-scout-cookies-childhood-obesity-good-neighbor-storiesFriday is “National Girl Scout Cookie Day”, a huge media blast to alert the country to the fact that it’s time for the mega fundraising sale. The Scouts are rolling out new apps you can download to your iPhone or Android so you can find the nearest sale. There are videos, a blog, and even a way to track the cookie truck as it delivers its precious cargo in New York City.

And of course in today’s social media-driven world, there’s a one-day Facebook posting contest, and cookie lovers are encouraged to post to Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram with the hashtag of #onemorebox. As in, why you think everyone should buy one more box of Girl Scout Cookies.

I love Girl Scout Cookies as much as the next American, but I won’t buy one more box.

I made the decision last year to never buy a box of Girl Scout Cookies again. I wrote why I believe it’s time for America’s youth organizations to step up as leaders and say “no more” to children and youth selling fat- and sugar-laden foods as a fundraising mechanism in the face of a serious childhood obesity epidemic.

The decision came after years of unease over the practice. I’ve never been a member of Girl Scouts, but I spent 10 years as a Camp Fire Girl, and put in another dozen years or so as a leader, parent, and local board member. I sold (and bought) a lot of candy in my lifetime, and bought a lot of Girl Scout Cookies, wanting to show support for what I know can be a challenging endeavor.

However, when childhood obesity began to get more play in the press about a decade ago, I started to rethink things. As a Camp Fire board member, I suggested we consider switching to a different fundraising model. The idea was flatly rejected. My unease continued to grow over the years, until I finally decided that for me, I was no longer comfortable supporting something that encourages unhealthy eating, and rewards youth for the selling of unhealthy foods.

Please don’t misunderstand, I still support Girl Scouts as a valuable youth organization; when asked to buy cookies (or candy and other snacks from youth) I offer a cash donation instead.

With cookie sales totaling more than $700 million every year for Girl Scouts, I know the organization isn’t stopping the practice anytime soon. However, there is a growing chorus of people criticizing the organization over issues of poor nutrition, the contribution to the obesity epidemic, and the depletion of the rain forest through use of palm oil. There are even Scouts who are opting out of the sales altogether for health reasons.

I hope that Girl Scout leadership will take notice, and eventually put its commitment to children and teens ahead of tradition and dollars. Until then, I’m saying not #onemorebox.

What do you think? Am I making too much of a much beloved tradition? Or should we seriously reconsider the practice of youth sales of unhealthy snack foods?

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    I completely understand and share your concerns regarding childhood obesity and the connection to the high-calorie cookies, snacks, etc that kids hawk to promote their organization. However, as a Girl Scout leader and mom of two Girl Scouts, I know that cookie sales is where 90% of our troop funds comes from. The other 10% is from the Nut & Candy Fall Sale. Girl Scouts as an organization does listen to these concerns. They brought out a sugar-free cookie about 8 years ago – sales were horrible so they were discontinued. Additionally, they have reduced the box sizes in the last 2-3 years.

    The annual cookie sale is not just a way for girls to earn money for their troop. It is their first foray into running their own business, and teaches many skills and life lessons that they will use their entire life. Including how to handle, and hopefully overcome, rejection.

    What would, in your opinion, be a better fundraising option for Girl Scouts? A LOT of our customers buy GS cookies because it’s familiar, or they have memories selling them as a child themselves, or because they want to support the girls. But the majority of the customers want the cookies. As any good business owner knows, regardless of how good your intentions are, if it’s not a product your customers want, they won’t buy it.

    (sorry this was so lengthy)

  2. Pam Marino says:

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment, Kelly. If you didn’t already, check out my original post from last year, where I describe my background with product sales. I totally agree that Girl Scouts is a great organization, and that participating in sales provides life-long training. I suggested in that post that organizations adjust the curriculum so that members are still receiving that valuable training, just not with product sales. Sort of like what Junior Achievement does. As for an alternative fundraiser, that I’m afraid I don’t have the answers to. In last year’s post I suggested the Girl Scouts team up with some professionals to help them come up with new ways for the 21st century. I said that I hesitate to suggest a walk, run, or other fitness event, since so many other organizations are doing those. For now I have a policy that if a young person asks me to buy candy or cookies, I say, “How about a donation?” They always say yes! 🙂

  3. Katherine Burke says:

    The GSUSA website addresses all of these concerns.

    They are working to create a sustainable green palm supply to stop the depletion of rainforests.

    But as to your main concern of childhood obesity, I can say this: Girl Scouts do sell nuts as a “healthy” fundraiser in the fall. It is a miserable failure next to selling cookies. Poeple ask us every day: where are the cookies? We don’t sell nearly enough nuts to pay for our trips, supplies and badges much less to pay our staff and maintain our campgrounds.

    Let me ask you this: do you ban purchases of all cookies or just the ones sold by Girl Scouts? People are going to buy and eat cookies anyway. Even one more box of Thin Mints once a year isn’t going to help or sabotage the work against childhood obesity.

  4. Pam Marino says:

    Hi Katherine,
    Thank you very much for your comments.
    To your question about do I ban purchases of all cookies: I made a personal decision not to participate in any more sales of unhealthy foods from any youth organization, not just Girl Scouts. If asked to purchase something, I offer a cash donation instead. Two weeks ago I wrote a check directly to a troop led by a friend.
    My issue is not with cookies, candy, chips, or any other empty calorie snack. We all have to make our own decisions as to what is healthy or acceptable for our selves and our families. I’d like to see youth organizations—as leaders of our children and teens—take a stand against the foods that have contributed to our obesity epidemic in the United States, and model healthier choices instead.
    Is Girl Scouts going to give up a $700 million-plus fundraiser? I know they most likely won’t, and I know their are legions of fans that wouldn’t want them to. I hoped that by sharing my own personal choice it might stimulate a conversation on the topic. Perhaps parents faced with requests to sell sugary and fatty snacks from schools and other smaller organizations will press their leaders to find fundraising alternatives.

  5. Teresa says:

    Kelly, You’re correct on every point in your first paragraph, apparently, because that’s exactly what I’ve heard executives and marketers from McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and every major food manufacturer in the country say. We sell it because people buy it. We sell it because we make money from it. Big business is big business.

Trackbacks

  1. […] my 2013 post on why I’m still not buying Girl Scout […]