The Girl Scouts have millions of boxes of cookies they couldn't sell during the pandemic, but that's not the case for some troops in Minnesota.
Nationwide, Girl Scouts have 15 million boxes of unsold cookies, The Associated Press reported Monday, with some troops having a surplus of extra boxes they're trying to sell or donate so they don't go to waste.
The pandemic limiting how Girl Scouts sold cookies — and some forecasting inaccuracies when ordering boxes from the two bakeries that make them — are to blame for the excess of Girl Scout cookies, The AP notes.
But that's not what happened for troops in southern Minnesota.
Tammy Freese, the director of product program of Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys (a council that covers troops in southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, as well as western Wisconsin and one county in Iowa), told Bring Me The News they had 11,200 girls participating in this year's cookie program, and they sold 3.4 million boxes of cookies.
That's a small decline from 2020, with Freese saying sales in 2021 were down "slightly over 6%" compared to the year before.
She credits "our dynamic, resilient and innovative girls" as to why sales weren't impacted as much as other councils across the U.S., noting Girl Scouts River Valleys gave girls the option of selling cookies in-person, online or via a hybrid of the two during the pandemic.
That led to "so much creativity with troops and their cookie sales this season," Freese said.
Girl Scouts held drive-through cookie booths in parking lots where people could order and pay for boxes of cookies similar to a fast-food restaurant. They set up lemonade stands to sell cookies in their neighborhood. And some troops offered virtual cookie booths where people could order and pay online, then pick up their cookies at a pre-determined time and place, with orders picked and packaged by the scouts.
"The expansion of online sales was truly impactful with many girls sharing their unique sales links with their customer base via social media, text, or email where customers could pay online and families could make a porch-drop of their cookie order," Freese said.
Girl Scouts River Valleys made it a point to focus on the health and safety of girls and volunteers, with a "cookie dial" that families could access in case community GOVID-19 guidance changed during the season, Freese said, adding they offered contactless payments, online sales and shipping discounts as well.
"We wanted to give girls and troops as many tools to make this a successful and safe season," Freese said.
Girl Scouts River Valleys plans to continue offering these types of sales options for troops moving forward, with Freese calling it a "permanent pivot that will continue into the coming year."
And unlike some councils and troops across the U.S., Girl Scouts River Valleys did not end the season with a surplus of unsold boxes of cookies.
"We went into this season very aware we would have fewer girls and troops participating," Freese said. "We tracked our weekly sales patterns very closely to ensure our council was 'right-sizing' our orders to the baker so we did not end up with an excess of inventory at the end of the season."
Local councils and troops depend on money from cookie sales (Girl Scouts sell around 200 million boxes per year, or about $800 million worth) to fund programs, camps, building improvements and other activities, the AP says. It's unclear what the overall impact of lower cookie sales will have on troops, but some are delaying infrastructure projects at camps and leaving some staff positions unfilled.
Girl Scout River Valleys isn't experiencing these funding woes this year "because of the success of our cookie program," Freese said.
The council will be able to continue offering financial assistance to make Girl Scouting affordable for everyone who wants to join. It will continue offering a variety of programs, from STEM to outdoors, as well as offering camp programing and maintaining the Girl Scouts' properties, Freese notes.
"We hope to re-engage with girls that may have sat out of Girl Scouts during the pandemic and welcome new girls into our community," Freese said, adding that the council is offering a special where new leaders and their girl can join for free through July 30.
Girl Scouts River Valleys, through its Cookie Care Program and donations from customers, donated more than 92,000 boxes of cookies to healthcare workers, food shelves, school lunch programs and other organizations that helped people during the pandemic.
Bring Me The News has reached out to Girl Scouts of the USA and another Minnesota Girl Scouts council, Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines, for comment.