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A certainty.
Like death and taxes.

Girl Scout cookie season starts early where I live. No sooner had school begun than it was time to prep legions of little girls to peddle cookies with ingredients that no kid should be eating, much less selling. (And just in time for Halloween, too. Yay.) Your council might not start until January or later, but that means there’s still time to rethink the cookies (whether you’re buying or selling). I covered the topic at length (exhaustively?) last season, so rather than repeat myself, I’ll recap below.

I feel the same way now that I did then:  I am not anti-Girl Scouts. I am not anti-cookie. I don’t want to deprive kids of their childhoods. But I am against inferior ingredients. And hypocritical organizations. And practices that force children to sell unhealthful products under the guise of “opportunity” and “tradition.”

And I’m not alone. Last season’s posts generated wide-ranging discussions (here and on Fooducate, which reprinted the first post), with thoughtful insights from Girl Scout supporters, parents and troop leaders, many of whom think it’s time to improve the cookies or find new fundraisers altogether.

It’s good news that the Girl Scouts of the USA is finally addressing concerns about palm oil — a troubling ingredient because its production destroys rainforests and wildlife. And it’s great news that two tenacious Girl Scouts guilted the organization into it. Yet I’m not convinced the announcement is all that significant. “Sustainable” palm oil is questionable, and “pledges” aren’t concrete, so it’s hard to know whether this is anything more than greenwashing.

But even if it’s legit, even if the Girl Scouts’ pledge leads to reducing or even ditching palm oil in the cookies, what about the rest of the ingredients (here and here)?  That’s the change we really need to see.

(And while we’re at it: Maybe Coca-Cola and Exxon Mobil aren’t the best sponsors for the national Girl Scouts convention, this week in Houston. Just a thought.)

Knock-knock, buy a box?

Those who read last year’s posts might recall that this all began because I pondered whether to let my daughter join a troop even if we had no plans to sell the cookies. Turns out that hasn’t been an issue.  Tess has shown zero interest in Scouts, and we already do lots of fun, enriching things through school and on our own. We’ve also had no trouble not buying the cookies, since no one close to us sells them. I did see a door-to-door Girl Scout this year — the first time in forever. But she skipped my house! I’m guessing it was the “For Sale” sign in the front yard. That, or a neighbor told her not to waste her time knocking on our door. Hmmm.

Now, the recap:

Let’s talk Girl Scout cookies (January 7, 2011)
The first post, in which I ask people to look objectively at the cookies, their ingredients and the mixed messages surrounding the sales. And did you know?  While about 70% of cookie proceeds go to the local council, individual girls and troops keep only 10% to 20% of the price of each box. (The comments on this post are illuminating: on Spoonfed, on Fooducate and on Fooducate’s Facebook page.) An excerpt from the post:

“Oh, there’s no way I’d let her sell them. Our food habits are far from perfect (whatever that means). But I’d feel like a hypocrite. Or a drug dealer. Go on, tell me I’m overreacting. But, seriously, I couldn’t in good conscience let my daughter sell something I believe to be patently unhealthy. (Just as I’m not a fan of donating Girl Scout cookies to food pantries.) And not that I’ve personally tasted one lately, but people tell me the cookies aren’t even that good. Maybe that’s because of ingredient changes. Or maybe because when you eat more real food, you lose your taste for crap. But, no matter. No selling.”

It’s not just a cookie (February 19, 2011)
The follow-up, in which I discuss reaction to the first post (for and against) and tackle the moderation myth. An excerpt:

“People too often confuse activism like this for an anti-treats or anti-fun or other extreme agenda. But this isn’t about never eating sweets or taking away people’s cookies or letting food control your life. And this isn’t just about Girl Scout cookies. This is about holding corporations accountable for ingredients that have no business in our food supply.”

No fooling: Girl Scouts are green and the FDA is making us blue (April 1, 2011)
A what-the-what? about the Scouts’ “Go Green” initiatives. Includes a link to a terrific letter by blogger and Girl Scout leader Jennifer McNichols. An excerpt from Jennifer’s letter:

“To me, Girl Scouts of the USA’s stance sends a frightening message to girls, and that message is the one they already receive on every corporate-sponsored kids’ cartoon and in free teaching materials provided by fast food chains: That ‘making a difference’ is all about thinking small, and keeping it that way, and making the easy choices while putting off the hard ones until it’s too late. Picking up litter and encouraging recycling but never asking where all this waste is coming from and what can be done about it. Getting fresh air and exercise but never examining the food we eat or where it comes from. Running ‘Save the Rainforests’ educational campaigns while selling cookies that contribute to their destruction. You — we — were supposed to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

Amen then and amen now.

There is a bright spot amid the latest cookie onslaught: The Girl Scouts recently announced a new locavore badge that encourages girls to explore local food sourcing and cooking. Gotta love that.

Still, I’ll give the last word to a commenter on this story, who suggested that the locavore badge requirements are missing a step: “Bake your own damn cookies.”


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