Girl Scouts Have Massive Surplus of Unsold Cookies Due to COVID-19

The U.S. may have a very good problem on its hands this summer — a massive surplus of Girl Scout Cookies. The treats are typically sold by Girl Scouts within their local communities, but this year sales were extremely low due to the COVID-19 pandemic according to a report by New York Daily News. An estimated 15 million boxes of the cookies remain unsold, but social media users joke they are more than willing to step up and do their part to help deal with this crisis belatedly.

The coronavirus pandemic complicated just about every method that Girl Scouts typically use to sell cookies — from door-to-door visits to office building tours to kiosks outside of grocery stores and malls. While some branches tried to adapt to social distancing this year, many could not pivot fast enough. Two companies bake the cookies for the Girl Scouts each year, and between them, they have about 12 million unsold boxes. They are reportedly working with the Girl Scouts to decide how to allocate those cookies.

Some leading proposals are to donate the cookies to food banks or to the U.S. Military or even to sell them to prisons around the country. Meanwhile, another 3 million boxes are still spread out among the Girl Scout branches themselves. Local councils will get to decide how their stock is distributed.

"This is unfortunate, but given this is a girl-driven program and the majority of cookies are sold in-person, it was to be expected," Girl Scouts spokesperson Kelly Parisi told The Associated Press. In previous years, the Girl Scouts typically sold about 200 million boxes per year. The cookies have a shelf life of about one year after manufacture.

Some Girl Scouts were successful in setting up online stores or arranging socially distant drop-offs and payments. Some even partnered with food delivery services like GrubHub to make their quotas. Another question going forward is how these innovations will impact cookie sales next year, assuming COVID-19 is safely in the rearview by then.

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Girl Scouts leaders admit that the pandemic only exacerbated problems with the cookie supply chain caused by the Girl Scouts' dwindling ranks. Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee CEO Agenia Clark said that enrollment has fallen by almost 30% in the last decade, adding: "Without girls, there is no cookie program. Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic to bring all the problems to the surface."

Perhaps the thrill of returning to social events will bolster the Girl Scouts' enrollment in the years to come. For now, if you're interested in purchasing leftover Girl Scout cookies, chances are your local chapter has some in stock.