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Girl Scout Cookies and Me

Big Girl is a Girl Scout. A Brownie to be exact. I am a Girl Scout leader. It’s been three years. Every year around this time we’re asked to peddle cookies to our friends, relatives, and neighbors. Every year around this time I am extremely conflicted. In case you haven’t heard: Girl Scout cookies aren’t that healthy. In fact, they sort of suck.

You should check out the ingredients yourself, of course, but some, like the Dulche de Leche, have artificial colors including Yellow #5 Lake, Yellow #6 Lake, and Blue #2 Lake. Others, like Trefoils, have artificial colors. And almost all of them have palm oil. If you read the Girl Scout Cookies FAQ, it explains that high fructose corn syrup and all those questionable ingredients are “necessary,” according to the manufacturer Little Brownie Bakers, which is basically Kellogg (yes, the cereal people who make Froot Loops that make babies bounce off of walls). Without high fructose corn syrup, the cookies won’t brown up right, they say. Without palm oil, they won’t have as long of a shelf life. Sigh.

And here I am, in possession of this knowledge, and I’m still helping my troop set up cookie booths. I’m buying five boxes to send to the troops. I’m letting Big Girl bring Girl Scout cookies into school as a prop for her biography report. I’m bringing the form to my bowling league. So hypocritical.

I am a sell out. Yes, it all comes down to money. We earn $.60 for every box we sell, which in the past my girls have used to pay for our year-end party. One year, we went to Pump It Up. Last year we went to a local amusement park. This year we’re contemplating the American Girl store or maybe a sleepover party at the local children’s museum.

It hasn’t been easy for me — giving in like this. I’ve wondered if I should tell the troop that we’re skipping the cookies, and ask the parents to pony up the extra $30 per girl that it takes to go on these big field trips. But each year I’ve been reluctant to push my beliefs on other parents and children. And now that the girls have done a booth — having a ball, I might add — I feel even worse taking the experience away from them. It’s a team-builder for sure. It helps the girls learn about money, about salesmanship, about setting and reaching goals. It’s just such a difficult decision.

Still, I’m not just going to forget all those chemicals and bad ingredients. Heck, this IS Kellogg after all. It’s got the money and the power needed to provide us Girl Scouts with healthy alternatives, which is why I’m going to have my own daughter at least write to Girl Scouts and Kellogg asking them why they don’t care enough about kids to provide them with healthier options. It’s a good question to ask, right? And it’s also why I am asking you, my readers, to do the same if you care. Here’s the contact info for you:

Girl Scouts of America has a form on its website where you can email them with questions.

Little Brownie Bakers also has a web form.

It’s only after enough of us let them know that while we love supporting girls, we don’t want to support unhealthy activities that anything is going to change.

For instance, My friend Christina’s blog alerted me to the fact that two 12-year-old Girl Scouts are asking troops all across the country to create a puzzle piece, which they supply, that explains why they don’t want Little Brownie to use palm oil. (As per a news story, “The habitat of orangutans is being threatened by conversion of the land to the production of palm oil, an ingredient in Girl Scout Cookies.”) The girls are going to send the entire puzzle to Girl Scouts of America, asking them to get the palm oil out of the cookies. I’m thinking they may actually get somewhere based on the amount of press they’ve received. Good for them, and good for us, too, right? And the little children shall lead us…

This post is how I am participating this week in Real Food Wednesdays and Fight Back Fridays — two awesome campaigns to get people eating real food again.

2 Responses to “Girl Scout Cookies and Me”

  1. Karen, thanks so much for linking back to Spoonfed. As you know, I’ve written a few times on Spoonfed and Fooducate about why we don’t buy (and won’t sell) Girl Scout cookies, so I’m glad to see you’re rethinking things! I wouldn’t look at it as pushing your beliefs on others — look at it, instead, as education. Often people just have no idea what’s in the food we eat.

    As I’ve also documented, it’s highly questionable whether the girls are gaining anything in terms of financial/entrepreneurial literacy. It sounds like your troop has had a good experience, but many have not. And there are plenty of other ways to support the girls and the troops without buying/selling cookies.

    Keep blogging the good fight!

  2. Brooke says:

    I think that certain things like Girl Scout Cookies are one of those bad things that you have every once in a while. People love them… I eat them in moderation- Most recently we have switched to an organic & locally grown delivery service- we’ve stopped eating fast food and this month have stopped getting take out. We recycle- we have a compost pile, and a garden in our backyard… but we love Girl Scout Cookies and are aware of them not being any better for you than any other store bought cookie. If they could change them without changing the taste too much- go for it- but I don’t think people should have to go without them just because they are unhealthy… plus the proceeds go to do more than just pay for end of the year parties- two older scouts I saw at a cookie booth are going to Europe and another group- younger- are donating to our local humane society. Sometimes it’s a tough decision but I think the good outweighs the bad here.

    There really is a fine line between education and pushing your beliefs on people… you have to be careful because you can really push people the opposite way if you sound too preachy… I think in your situation is that I would participate in the cookie booths- that way you aren’t pushing the cookies on your friends and neighbors and such- the people who want them will come to you. In addition I would encourage the girls to put together their own fundraisers for activities that reflect their ideals- it will really give you a look into how they view the world.

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