The current global health crisis has impacted thousands of organizations as they have been forced to put events on hold to ensure safe social distancing practices. The Girl Scouts of the USA, whose cookie season was cut short this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, is no different.
Now, many troops — and their parents — have been left with sizable stashes of cookie boxes that would have normally been unloaded at in-person sales.
Each year, many local councils typically conduct their cookie sales for about six to eight weeks between January and April. But this year, things have looked very different.
“The COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. hard in the midst of cookie season, so many girls and councils haven’t been able to sell their inventory due to social distancing and other safety precautions,” GSUSA said in a statement.
Wendy Haseley, a Girl Scout troop leader based in Niagara County, New York, told TODAY her troop has been struggling with sales due the cancelation of major events in her area where they would typically have a booth.
“I have two girls in my troop who usually sell 2,500 boxes each, so I order enough cookies at the beginning (of the season) to have on hand for them," she explained. "They would normally sell between 750 and 1,000 boxes at the St. Patrick’s Day parades — but those were canceled."
In late March, Haseley, and many other troop leaders around the country, expressed concern that these unsold boxes would result in a staggering loss of funds for their troops. More recently, however, the organization started stepping up to offer more support to girls across the country.
“Girl Scouts of the USA is working closely with our 111 local council across the country who administer the iconic Girl Scout Cookie program to try and ensure that troops, girls, and volunteers aren't left financially responsible for any excess inventory of Girl Scout Cookies,” a spokesperson for GSUSA told TODAY.
Unable to set up booths on street corners and in front of grocery stores to attract buyers with their boxes of Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs and the newest flavor, Lemon-Ups, troops are turning to digital sales to make money.
In late March, GSUSA launched Cookie Care, a digital platform designed to replicate the traditional Girl Scout Cookie Program as closely as possible. Previously, Girl Scouts were able to sell cookies online via the organization's Digital Cookie platform, but consumers had to know a Girl Scout to make a purchase, so Cookie Care makes the program more accessible to all. After typing in their area code, people may buy their favorite cookies from local councils across the country.
“While we hope the nationwide link provides a boost to councils who have had to cancel traditional booth sales due to COVID-19, each participating Girl Scout council maintains control over their own individual cookie sale, and will work on individual timelines to arrive at individual solutions to try to ensure excess cookie inventory does not become a financial burden for troops," the spokesperson continued.
Another feature of Cookie Care is the donate option, which allows people to gift cookies to first responders, volunteers and other local causes.
Aside from creating Cookie Care, the organization says it will now be more active in providing additional support, which might include connecting troops with donation centers, as well as buy-backs.
"Many councils have extended their sales deadlines, and will communicate their practices and guidelines to their troops at the end of their season,” the spokesperson added.
Haseley said that GSUA has also relaxed previous restrictions that prohibited scouts from posting about their sales on social media, even Facebook.
"You still cannot post on public sites but you can make posts public," she explained. "Previously, we could only take credit card payments at cookie booths and they have opened that up for girls to be able to take cards for orders they receive — which helps maintain social distancing. They have also shown how girls can do a virtual sale using Facebook live."
A representative for GSUSA reiterated that since there are so many different councils, solutions to the excess cookie problem will vary widely by region but, so far, Haseley has been happy with the support her troop has received.
"The girls are stepping up and thinking outside the box to get their cookies sold,” she said.