Popcorn! Candles! Cookies! Is fundraising by kids a good idea gone bad?

Jeff D. Opdyke’s Love and Money column in the Wall St. Journal Sunday this week is titled Why Fund Raising Isn’t Child’s Play (subscription required but a free podcast (MP3) of he and his wife arguing about this issue is available here). He wrote:

A couple of times a year, my son comes home with an assignment that is supposed to warm our hearts: fund raising. But to be honest, it always leaves me cold. It’s always the same old, painful drill. My son carries a clutch of papers that, for all he cares, could be written in Sanskrit. The only thing he sees is the catalog filled with pictures of the prizes he can win if he raises a ton of money for some cause he can’t even identify. And it gets worse. My son has no interest in peddling products door-to-door.

samoas_or_caramel_de_lites.jpgPlus, considering our national obesity epidemic, are the typical food items sold, (best known example, the cookies sold by the Girl Scouts) a good idea anyway? See this NYTimes article titled, In a Fat Nation, Are Thin Mints On Thin Ice? (subscription required). And this blog post by MeMe Roth: Only a Real Meanie Would Boycott the Girl Scouts. I’m sure our local Girl Scout Council of Cannon Valley has heard this criticism before.


  1. Yep Griff, this comes up every year in some form or another. I was not able to read the entire articles as I am not a subscriber to those journals currently. I will respond the best I can.

    In contrast to what Opdyke describes, the Girl Scout Cookie Program is a (voluntary)program centered around teaching girls many skills — goal setting, math, public speaking, creating budgets, self-competence and teamwork. Girls (if properly trained) will be able to identify not simply what they are selling but also why they need to raise money. So essentially the Cookie Program isn’t simply fundraising — the girls earn the money through the built in learning activities. If anyone does not feel that they’re daughter is getting these skills from Girl Scouting, they may need to check in with their Troop Cookie Manager to find out ways they can help.

    In regards to a ‘Fat Nation’, (Again, not able to read the article), the Girl Scout program promotes healthy eating and an active lifestyle. The theme this year in fact was Step It Up which promotes athletic activities and healthy eating. Cookies as dessert or snacks should be consumed in moderation.

    Finally, in response to the NAAO blog, there was an article in the NYT which I will quote GSUSA Vice President Denise J. Pesich,
    ‘ending Girl Scout cookies won’t end obesity.’
    My personal opinion is that you can’t teach someone to eat healthy by denying them access to unhealthy foods since eventually they’ll have to face the unhealthy foods again in the free-market. That and the cause of obesity is more complicated than just eating sweets or overeating.

    March 12, 2007
  2. I should note that I am Communications Director for the Girl Scout Council of Cannon Valley. Oops – still getting used to this title!

    March 12, 2007
  3. Sean Hayford O'Leary said:

    I always enjoyed going door-to-door, myself. Trying to get the coolest prize was always part of it, but I think it’s reasonable to say that selling things in such a fashion is valid learning experience.

    In regards to a ‘Fat Nation’, (Again, not able to read the article), the Girl Scout program promotes healthy eating and an active lifestyle. The theme this year in fact was Step It Up which promotes athletic activities and healthy eating. Cookies as dessert or snacks should be consumed in moderation.

    Let’s be serious — nobody consumes Girl Scout cookies in moderation: they’re far too delicious. 😉 I know friends who’ve bought ten boxes just for themselves.

    That said, I doubt Girl Scout cookies are a major factor — or even a minor one — in general obesity problems. They’re always a seasonal treat — the real problems come from everyday things: poor school lunches, high-calorie snack foods, a coddling school busing program, and building movie theaters where nobody will walk to them. Let’s not diss the cookies.

    March 12, 2007
  4. Jerry Bilek said:

    I think the man in the podcast was dead on. I’m not a fan of most of the fundraisers. Sometimes I just ask the organization how much they receive if my daughter sells the expected amount. If it’s a reasonable amount, I just pay up and skip the selling. The pizza/popcorn companies make plenty of money. The organization often makes very little. $100 worth of selling could yield $20 for the org.

    I prefer the public radio approach. Tells us how much you need and the parents pay up. Parents who cannot pay, could volunteer time. Or at the least, tell the parents how much money each kid will raise if they sell x amount and the parents can choose to sell or pay the cash. Do we really need more candles and wrapping paper.

    I think the state Attorney General and the school districts should look into the questionable practices of Scholastic and it’s failure to collect and pay sales tax. How much does this cost the school district? Does it offset the money and free books raised?

    Girl Scout cookies-who doesn’t love a good cookie, but please take out the partially hydrogenated oils.
    From wikipedia:
    Hydrogenated oils were once used to feed pigs but were discontinued because the pigs would die.

    We know trans fats are bad, Take them out of all of the cookies.

    March 13, 2007
  5. As of the 2006-2007 cookie season, all varieties of Girl Scout cookies are zero trans fat.

    If you are interested in learning more about the cookie program or ingredients you may find information here http://www.girlscoutcookies.org and our baker is Little Brownie Bakers.

    March 13, 2007
  6. Lahna Tran said:

    I like the idea of “healthy fundraising” like having the kids participate in Walk-a-Thons. It not only promotes healthy lifestyles but builds a sense of school community as well! It also means that 100% of the money raised goes directly to the school since there is no middle-man taking a cut for the products that are sold.

    March 13, 2007
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    Cynthia, thanks for chiming in (and congrats on your new position!)

    Can you provide a link to an exact page with the info about the change to zero transfat in the 2006-07? I don’t see any ingredients info on the cookie site at:

    and the obesity FAQ here doesn’t mention it:

    Q: Obesity is at epidemic levels, particularly childhood obesity. Does it concern you that by selling cookies you are contributing to a very real health threat?

    A: Starting with our youngest members, the Girl Scout organization promotes a healthy lifestyle for its girl members, which includes a well-balanced diet and plenty of exercise. Our health and fitness programs encourage girls to adopt healthy fitness and eating habits early in life and continue them into adulthood.

    In addition, the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) recently released a research review entitled Weighing In: Helping Girls Be Healthy Today, Healthy Tomorrow. Weighing In addresses various underlying causes leading to the epidemic of obesity and of being overweight among children and adolescents and the lifestyles, culture, and behavior that have contributed to this condition.

    March 13, 2007

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