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Why Cookie Season Gets Me All Fired Up

Isn't this what the girls in front of Wal-Mart look like?!
Isn’t this what the girls in front of Wal-Mart look like?!

I’m going to ruffle a few feathers here.  It’s Girl Scout Cookie season, and no, it doesn’t get me nostalgic of the cookie sales of my youth.  It actually gets me all riled up.

First of all, I have a big problem with organizations using junk food as a way to raise funds.  What kind of message are we telling the girls when a wholesome organization such as Girl Scouts asks them to learn sales and business skills peddling cookies full of harmful ingredients like trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and colorings, and genetically modified organisms?  Seriously, have you looked at the list of ingredients?!

These cookies are now a $700 million cookie empire, pumping 200 million boxes of highly processed cookies into American households.  Obesity epidemic anyone?!

They  just raised the price to $5 per box, citing that it will make math easier for the girls. Have you ever wondered where that $5 goes when you buy a box of cookies?
girl scout cookies profitsHere’s my source.

So those little girls that do all the leg work, and those poor cookie moms that stuff their mini-vans full of boxes of cookies get to keep just over $1 per box.  Did you know the CEO of Girl Scouts, Anna Maria Chavez, makes almost $400,000 per year?  That means the full $5 of 80,000 boxes of cookies goes straight to the salary of one woman.  I saw Anna Maria Chavez speak when she was in Reno recently, and she’s amazing — totally inspiring — but I really can’t wrap my head around encouraging my daughter to sell junk food to help pay a salary equal to that of the president of the United States.  I almost stepped up to the microphone to confront her on the junk food fundraisers, but lost my nerve thinking people might start throwing dinner rolls at me.

girl scout cookies 2It’s even worse when you look at the Boy Scouts.  The CEO of the Boy Scouts earns $1.5 Million dollars.  Wow!  I could totally go on a rant about the inequality in pay for a male versus a woman, but do for a minute picture all the poor boy scouts schlepping highly processed popcorn to pay the salary of their CEO.

Back when my daughter was in Girl Scouts, I had  a brilliant idea.  Girl Scout cookies started with girls actually baking the cookies they’d sell.  What if we bucked the system, and taught our girls some baking skills by making cookies with REAL and healthy ingredients, and then they sold those!  They’d learn both baking and sales skills, plus they could keep 100% of the profit!

That idea went over like a lead balloon when I shared it at a meeting with troop leaders.  “But people LOVE Girl Scout cookies!” the other mothers vexed.

Then came the sign ups…  They wanted my daughter and I to sign up for weekend days to stand in front of grocery stores to sell cookies.  Um, excuse me?  As a working Mom, my weekends are held precious, and I have a policy of cramming in as much fun with my kids as possible on those days…  I don’t think standing in front of Wal-Mart on a winter day asking everyone to buy highly processed cookies is fun — for me or my daughter.  We’ll be skiing, thankyouverymuch.

Cookie sales are supposed to teach girls business skills.  Back when I was a Brownie, I think it did that.  My mom would send me out with a wagon full of cookies and I’d go door to door practicing my sales pitch.  I was goal driven — wanting to sell enough boxes to get the much coveted prize for cookie sales.  My father refused to do cookie sales at his work, meaning I really couldn’t compete with the other girls whose parents did so, but the responsibility and drive was all my own.

But now, we live in a society where we think that sales model would be too dangerous.  Hence, the model of standing in front of grocery stores started.  As a business professional myself, I really don’t think asking hundreds of shoppers passing by, “do you want to buy some cookies?” is teaching many business skills.  Maybe some money management, but no, not business…

So, what is the solution?  I don’t know…  I’d honestly be happy if they found a fundraiser that involved healthy food.  We could petition them.  Can you imagine — what if the Girl Scouts sold produce from local farmers?

Or, I could start my own version of the Girl Scouts.  I envision an empowering organization where we teach healthy lifestyles and boot strap business skills by coming up with our own fundraisers and keeping all the profits to empower the girls to make an even bigger impact on local charities.  I’ll set that up in my spare time (wink, wink).

Don’t get me wrong, I do think there are a lot of redeeming qualities to Girl Scouts.  In fact, when my daughter was in a local troop, our troop leader was amazing (you know who you are!).  If my daughter begged to be in it again, I’d likely support her, but there would be grumblings under my breath as I rant with an internal dialogue like the above.

Don’t worry, I’ll buy some cookies.  I do every year.  I think it’s my obligation as a former Girl Scout.  But I often hide them way back in the pantry and eventually the ones that get forgotten back there get sneakily thrown away.  My kids haven’t noticed the absence yet, mainly because I’m always down with their suggestions of baking our own cookies (which I make with real butter, whole wheat flour, oats and eggs).  Heck, we might even make some healthy Samoas, healthy Tag Alongs or raw Thin Mint brownies this year.

With that said, you can also just write a check or donate money directly to a troop, and they’ll be able to keep 100% of that money.  You could blow a troop’s mind with a $50 check.  Imagine — they’d have to sell 50 boxes to earn that kind of money!  So, with that said, happy cookie season to you Cookie Moms out there!  😉

Phew.  I finally got that off my chest.  Now let the backlash begin!







About Lynnette Bellin

Lynnette Bellin
Lynnette Bellin is the former owner and site manager of the Reno Moms Blog. She is a married mother of a teenage daughter and a highly energetic tween boy. Lynnette moved to Reno in 2001 after choosing to live in a place that she loved for its natural beauty. She has written four children's books, including The Kindness Ninja and a series of three books called Adeline’s Magical Moments Collection. She has been obsessed with blogging since 2002. Lynnette loves to experience outdoor adventures in our area, including skiing, hiking, camping, and open water swimming. She spends her days working from home for a NYC ad agency and shuttling kids to dance, lacrosse and basketball.


  1. Jessica Santina

    I’ve actually never thought about the health aspect, figuring it’s a once-a-year splurge, but I am totally with you on the lack of salesmanship it teaches, let’s face it, it’s the parents agreeing to take on a part-time sales job every year. I think Lemonade Day is a way better program for teaching business skills to kids. Plus, honestly, and this may get me some flak, I don’t actually love Girl Scout cookies. Overrated in my opinion.

  2. Will you sign me up for a box or two? Just kidding. I try to stay far far away from Girl Scout cookies. My hips don’t like them very much and neither do my skinny jeans. Aside from the health issues, you’ve brought up more reasons to keep my distance. I agree with you 100%.

  3. Have you thought about 4-H Clubs instead of scouts?

    Head, Heart, Hands, and Health are the four Hs in 4-H, and they are the four values members work on through fun and engaging programs.

    Head – Managing, Thinking
    Heart – Relating, Caring
    Hands – Giving, Working
    Health – Being, Living

    (source: http://www.4-h.org/about/)

  4. I certainly think you make some incredibly valid points, and that we should encourage the Girl Scout cookie maker, ABC Cookies, to make changes.

    However, I am torn on this issue as well. I am a Girl Scout troop leader. The cookie program is the primary tool to get revenue for my troop, without which we cannot do much. Parents are supposed to help pay regular dues, yet I find many parents forget. I am afraid to push the issue in case they just don’t have the money. In the end, a lot of supplies I pay for out of pocket.

    As to what marketing skills the girl learns, I think that primarily depends on the troop leaders and troop assistants. I am certain that some troops are better than others at ensuring that the cookie selling experience is also enriching.

    The proposal of trying to make all of the cookies and sell them on our own is incredibly daunting. I work full time, as do the rest of my moms. Additionally all of my girls are second graders, so they cannot bake independently. The upfront costs for all of the raw materials is also a hindrance.

    In a environment where we are constantly worried about what is in our food, allergies to everything under the sun, to trust what a stranger baked in their kitchen puts some people off. I know I wouldn’t buy homemade cookies from a stranger on the street.

    Thank you for the bravery to challenge a long held tradition. There are strong sentimental ties to selling cookies. I think challenging what goes into the cookies we sell is important, but I am not sure your proposed solution is a reasonable alternative.

  5. I agree with you on several points including it being wrong how little goes to the troops, the manner they sell these days, and the health issues.

    There is also now another “scouting opportunity” locally. A new Navigator’s group just recently started in Reno that meets every other Saturday. Simply put…. it is similar to scouts, but co-ed and without a lot of the things that usually turn people off. They are very much into volunteering and making their world a better place. Here is the Reno/Sparks Chapter’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1516110275302728/?ref=br_tf

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