Girl Scout Cookies - © 2023 Girl Scouts

Will Food Price Inflation Kill Girl Scout Cookies?

Alas, food inflation has taken its toll in all corners of society. Even the grand old tradition of selling Girl Scout Cookies to raise funds for the organization. The latest round of price hikes threatens to push GS Cookies out of reach for many…

Canadian Girl Guide Cookies - © 2023 Parade.comCanadian Girl Guide Cookies: Fewer varieties than in US; stronger support?

Humble beginnings

Wikipedia chronicles the growth of the movement in a few choice sentences:

Girl Guides (known as Girl Scouts in the United States and some other countries) is a worldwide movement, originally and largely still designed for girls and women only. The movement began in 1909 when girls requested to join the then-grassroots Boy Scout Movement.

“The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) was formed in 1928 and has member organizations in 145 countries. WAGGGS celebrated the centenary of the international Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting Movement over three years, from 2010 to 2012.”

The the Girl Guides of Canada website describes its typical program of activities as, “a catalyst for girls empowering girls. We provide girls age 5-17 with the opportunity to try new experiences, challenge themselves and build their confidence, all within a safe environment. Our volunteers help deliver a unique program that encourages girls to build life skills in outdoor adventure, financial literacy, mental health, advocacy and more.”

That’s a lofty aim. But the organization has been chasing it pretty successfully for more than a century. One of the chief challenges faced by the movement has always been funding its various activities. And cookie sales have always been a major contributor to that cause.

A change in emphasis

The Girl Guides/Scouts program has undergone a modernization since the millennium. Sewing has been set aside for social justice awareness. The practical outdoors-oriented programs centred around camping have largely been de-emphasized due to insurance costs and safety concerns.

But the need for funding remains the same.

Cookies in crisis?

Now, the Cookie tradition is being threatened.

I remember, back in the 80s, when the Guides could sell cookies here in Canada for $2 a box and still make money. Sounds ridiculous today, I know. But I am old enough to enjoy a long view on all kinds of issues…

Last week, a whole phalanx of news outfits that doubtless could have spent their few minutes dedicated to Guide/Scout cookies sales to other, more pressing stories nevertheless covered the Cookie price increase. Shows you how iconic the movement is in Western Society.

A little History

Under the US organization, individual GS troops can set their own retail prices for cookies. That’s a good idea when you consider increases in operating expenses in some regions compared to others. Also, why shouldn’t the kids set premium prices in areas where well-off residents can afford them? Anyway…

As recently as 2015, GS troops across the U.S. raised the price of their cookies uniformly from $4 to $5 a box.

Now, a number of troops, notably in New York State, have elected to raise the price of their cookies to $6 across the board for the coming 2024 ‘season’. And we learned, by the by, that some districts in Northern California, and Louisiana already quietly raised their prices to $6 last year.

Some cookie varieties including S’mores and Toffee-Tastic are already priced at $6. Will they be hiked to $7?

Compounding issues

Ongoing general food price inflation has hit GS Cookie sales in two ways. On the back end, the cost to have the cookies baked and packaged has increased, threatening profit margins. On the front end, masses of folks who would have cheerfully bought a box or two in the past have cut grocery non-essentials in their fight to put enough decent food on the table.

Poverty has never been higher in North America since the end of the Second World War.

The implications are clear

The GS and GG organizations have to try to maximize Cookie revenues by maximizing sales volume in affluent markets. It’s really the only course open to them in the Cookie sphere. How they are supposed to do that, I don’t know.

Another possibility exists – outside of Cookie sales. That entails getting massive government, corporate and institutional support for GS and GG programs, emphasizing their role as, “a catalyst for girls empowering girls.” That ought to appeal to any feminist-oriented group. And just to be seen supporting a movement like Scouting/Guiding would be a valuable support for any company’s corporate citizenship profile.

The only other option I can see is that the GS and GG programs start charging higher membership fees to the girls they enroll and their families. But such a move would probably just precipitate a mass exodus from the GSs and GGs, given the current economy.

Future unsure

So… The future of the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts movement seems pretty shaky. Dare I suggest that it may be time to either massively overhaul the organization? Or maybe just lay it to rest once and for all?

~ Maggie J.