Girl Scouts Report 15 Million Boxes of Unsold Cookies Due to COVID Pandemic, Declining Memberships
“Girl Scout cookie season isn’t just when you get to buy cookies. It’s interacting with the girls. It’s Americana,” a representative for the company expressed
The organization has 15 million boxes of unsold cookies in surplus, a representative for the company told the Associated Press on Monday - adding that around 12 million boxes are still sitting at their two baking facilities, Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Bakers.
"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," Kelly Parisi, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the USA, told the outlet.
Typically, Girl Scouts of the USA sells 200 million boxes of cookies per year worth around $800 million, the AP reported.
With the surplus, Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Bakers are working with Girl Scouts to figure out a way to donate the cookies to places such as food banks, the AP reported.
They could also sell the cookies - which only have a 12-month shelf life - but vendors aren't able to go directly to grocery stores due to the effect it would have on annual cookie sales, which are typically sold by the scouts themselves in-person.
"The outpouring of support for the cookie program has been overwhelming, so we've launched a donation-only site to support the Girl Scout Movement after an unprecedented year," Girl Scouts of the USA said in a statement to PEOPLE.
The organization urged supports to "visit Digital Cookie if you want to support the cookie program and donate cookies to first responders, food banks and other worthy causes."
Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Bakers also declined PEOPLE's request to comment.
Girl Scouts organizations have resorted to other sales methods during the pandemic, such as drive-thru booths, online sales, and contact-free delivery (like a partnership with Grubhub, announced earlier this year). Sadly, the move hasn't closed the gap.
Though low sales were predicted due to the pandemic, Parisi told the AP they were hoping to make up for it as COVID restrictions across states have changed.
"Girl Scout cookie season isn't just when you get to buy cookies," she told the outlet. "It's interacting with the girls. It's Americana."
Never miss a story - sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
The pandemic aside, there's another reason for the decline in Girl Scout cookie sales: falling memberships.
According to the AP, membership has dropped by 30 percent since 2009 - well before the pandemic.
"Without girls, there is no cookie program. Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic to bring all the problems to the surface," Agenia Clark, local council president and CEO of Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, told the outlet.
And declining memberships have also been linked to reports from the AP about alleged child labor used to make the palm oil used in Girl Scout cookies.
Gina Verdibello, a troop leader in Jersey City, New Jersey, said her Girl Scouts boycotted participating in this year's cookie program and protested at city hall, noting that she knows of at least a dozen troops that did the same because of the palm oil scandal.
"We want to sell cookies. It's part of our thing. But this is putting kind of a damper on it," Verdibello said.