It’s finally March, and you know that that means.
No, I don’t mean March Madness or Saint Patrick’s Day. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Girl Scout cookie-selling season.
The pandemic years have been hard on our Girl Scouts. First came the decrease in cookie sales. Now there’s a shortage of certain ingredients needed to bake their nationally beloved cookies.
But the Girl Scouts are nothing short of determined. I mean, have you seen those badges?
The Covid years
“I can talk cookies in my sleep!”
Jessica Delp is the director of Product Program and Retail at the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, which covers 30 counties in central Pennsylvania, including Pike County. Their 2020 cookie season made it just under the wire.
“Back in 2020 we had our large cookie deliveries in early March,” said Delp. “A couple days after two million packages of Girl Scout cookies were distributed to girls and volunteers, Governor Wolf shut down the state. The girls could not physically get those packages to their customers, and we couldn’t do booths, so it was a unique challenge.”
So they did what everyone else in 2020 had to do – pivot.
Local Girl Scout troops used digital forms instead of their usual paper ones. They found contactless ways to deliver orders, dropping them off on porches, stuffing them into mailboxes and bins, arranging socially distant meet-ups for large orders – you name it.
“And we actually sold 1.94 million packages of Girl Scout packages amid that chaos,” said Delp.
Jennifer Donohue is director of marketing and communications at Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson, a council that serves seven counties in New York’s Hudson Valley, including Orange County.
“Our cookie delivery was delayed in 2020,” she said. “Usually the cookies will come in around April, but they didn’t come until May due to Covid protocols. But they were able to safely deliver the cookies to the troop without much disruption.”
Many of the old Girl Scout programs were restored in 2021, like cookie-selling booths in both indoor and outdoor facilities. It brought a bit of normalcy to the troops, even though only half of their usual locations allowed them to return.
“And this year has a little more sense of that normalcy,” said Delp. “But now we’re faced with production challenges.”
S’mores no more
Everyone has their favorite Girl Scout cookie. Was yours affected by this year’s supply chain shortages?
If it’s S’mores, you are out of luck. They are almost completely unavailable. The other most-affected cookie is a new one this year, the Adventureful – a brownie and caramel-infused cookie creation widely expected to be the Girl Scouts’ new hit.
“It stems from supply chains from our baker, which is Little Brownie Baker,” said Donohue. “As of right now, we do not have the S’mores cookies available, and our new Adventureful cookie is only available for girl delivery. So if you’re looking for that, you have to actually know a girl.”
Little Brownie Baker has supplied Girl Scout cookies for decades and is one of only two suppliers of their cookies. Their labor shortage is the main reason for the cookie shortage.
Chareese Harper leads two Girl Scout troops in Wallkill, N.Y., Troop 122 and Troop 099.
“It’s been a nightmare,” she said.
Her troops are the only ones in Wallkill to still sell cookies, which has added stress to the season. In 2020, Harper spent two weeks hand-delivering packages to cookie customers Middletown, Pine Bush, and Goshen.
Now with S’mores and Adventurefuls in short supply, Harper said it’s disappointing to tell her troops that the opportunity to sell more cookies is limited. “The whole graham cracker chocolate and marshmallow thing, it’s not happening at all,” said Harper.
And even though a poll by You.Gov stated that the S’mores cookies were the least popular out of the Girl Scouts selection, with only 3% of Americans saying it was their favorite, Harper said it’s highly popular around the local area. “If you put those cookies in the microwave, they really do taste like S’mores.”
“Everyone was so ready to get back out there fully, and then this happened,” said Harper. “I know I’ve got to make the best of it, and get the girls’ spirits back up, but it’s hard.”
‘Buy from your local girl’
One of the most important parts about the Girl Scout cookie program is that every single cookie package bought will go into the local troop you buy them from. “So it’s always important to buy from your local girl,” said Donohue.
This is Amber Vitoulis’ final year selling Girl Scout cookies. She’s a senior at Warwick High School and has been a Girl Scout for close to a decade. She is the sole member left in her troop.
“I’ve done a lot of volunteering,” said Amber. And for the past few years she’s been volunteering with a program she created called Butterfly Bags of Hope.
“Basically I collect donations, backpacks and clothes, coloring books — you know, those comfort items,” said Amber. “And I’ll put one of each in a bag, and then when a kid gets taken out of a bad living situation or foster care, they get a backpack.”
She has donated more than 180 backpacks since she began the program back in 2018. The donations she’s received have grown so much, she’s renting a storage unit.
“I haven’t really been able to sell cookies now with the cookie shortage,” she said. “It’s really impacted me because I would use the money I get from the cookies to pay for storage for the Butterfly Bags. I know I won’t have enough money for storage for another year, maybe only for a month or two.”
Girl Scout cookie sales have helped fund thousands of programs that directly help the communities in which they are sold. It is not just a way for young girls to learn business skills, but to understand the way their work affects their community. That’s why they need the public’s help, now more than ever.
“We have a website and an app where customers can just put in their zip code and find out where cookies are being sold by their local Girl Scout troop,” said Donohue. The app is called Girl Scout Cookie Finder, the website is at girlscouts.org/en/cookies/how-to-buy-cookies.html.
Why are we so obsessed?
March 12 marked the Girl Scouts’ 110th birthday, and the Girl Scout Cookie program has been around for 105 of those years. “They’re just kind of a part of the fabric of America,” said Donohue.
Delp said, “You know that when you buy a box of cookies, yes it’s delicious, but there’s more to it. It’s making the world a better place, and that’s our mission as Girl Scouts.”
She said the third-most searched for snack food online was Girl Scout cookies.
“It’s not just about eating a snack,” Delp said. “It’s about normalcy, that sense of comfort. And you can always count on a Samoa to taste the same.”