Girl Scouts are stuck with 15 million boxes of unsold cookies after an unusually slow season

·3 min read
Girl Scouts sell cookies as a winter storm moves in on February 8, 2013 in New York City
Associated Press reported that Girl Scouts currently have 15 million boxes of unsold cookies. John Moore/Getty Images
  • The Girl Scouts have 15 million boxes of unsold cookies this season, Associated Press reported.

  • A spokesperson said the COVID-19 pandemic caused some troops to halt in-person sales dues to safety.

  • Girl Scouts membership has also started to decline.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Girl Scouts revealed that there are currently 15 million boxes of unsold cookies.

According to the Associated Press, the 109-year-old organization took a sizable hit this selling season, and representatives have blamed the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic continued into spring, many troops reportedly paused traditional, in-person cookie booths for safety reasons.

Around 12 million unsold boxes remain with two bakers - Little Brownie Bakers Kentucky and ABC Bakers in Indiana - while another three million boxes are with Girl Scout councils, AP reported.

"This is unfortunate, but given this is a girl-driven program and the majority of cookies are sold in-person, it was to be expected," Kelly Parisi, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the USA, told AP.

Little Brownie Bakers Kentucky and ABC Bakers may donate or sell to places like food banks or the military since they can't directly sell to grocers, AP reported. The cookies have a 12-month shelf life.

Representatives for Girl Scouts of the USA told Insider in a a statement: "The outpouring of support for the cookie program has been overwhelming, so we've launched a donation-only site to support the Girl Scout Movement after an unprecedented year."

Girl Scouts of the USA typically sell 200 million boxes of cookies annually that rake in around $800 million, but it's unclear how much of a financial hit the Girl Scouts have taken this season.

Rebecca Latham, the CEO of Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails, told the publication that troops in her area sold 805,000 boxes of cookies last year, but the most recent season sold just under 600,000.

The council has encouraged people to buy boxes online through the Hometown Heroes program, which gives cookies to firefighters, healthcare workers, and other groups, the outlet said. The council also tried one-day sales with organizations like the New Mexico United soccer team to help with sales.

The drop in sales means that local councils and troops dependent on cookie sales could face difficulty with funding programs, travel, and other activities.

Cookie coordinator Debbie Reynolds, 39, of Villa Park, from Troop 4055, stands next a stack of Thin Mints during the Girl Scout Cookie Mega Drop at the Anaheim.
The Associated Press reported that the Girl Scouts have also experienced a decline in membership. MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

The report said many troops tried to find creative ways around the pandemic, including drive-thru booths, contact-free delivery, online sales, and even a delivery partnership with Grubhub.

"Girl Scout cookie season isn't just when you get to buy cookies," Parisi told AP. "It's interacting with the girls. It's Americana."

According to AP, the Girl Scouts have also experienced a decline in membership.

The report said that about 1.7 million girls were enrolled in Girl Scouts in 2019 - down nearly 30% since 2009.

"Without girls, there is no cookie program. Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic to bring all the problems to the surface," Agenia Clark, president and CEO of Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, told AP.

Parisi told AP that the membership declined during the pandemic as troops struggled to make sales safely.

Local troop leaders said that it also might have been impacted by a 2020 AP story that linked child labor to the palm oil used to make Girl Scout cookies.

Gina Verdibello, a troop leader in New Jersey, said her troop opted out of selling cookies this year and held a protest over the palm oil report. She added that at least a dozen other troops did the same thing.

"We want to sell cookies. It's part of our thing. But this is putting kind of a damper on it," Verdibello said.

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