Here’s a question to hit you right in the gut this morning: do you think the Girl Scouts’ fundraising with cookies is ethical?
Let me back track.
I was keeping up on the latest nutrition-related news, as I’m wont to do, and came upon this debate on KPCC that I thought was really interesting and I’d love to hear your thoughts:
Should the Girl Scouts Stop Fundraising with Cookies?
The Girl Scouts Cookie Debate
You can listen to the segment here but I’ll break it down for you. The show featured Dr. Yoni Freedhoff as its subject-matter-expert and he argued for the halting of Girl Scout cookie fundraising. The host would take calls for alternate view points. If you’re not familiar with Dr. Freedhoff, he’s the Medical Director at the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, author of the new book, The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work and the blogger behind Weighty Matters.
Here are Dr. Freedhoff’s points:
- It’s not that cookies are fundamentally bad or that this is even a moral issue; it’s just that “we’ve normalized the notion that fundraising with sugar and junk food is okay” (Dr. Freedhoof mentions how breast cancer research used the sale of fried chicken for fundraising and that pizza fundraisers have often been a component of children’s hospitals).
- He asks: “is fundraising with sugar in our current environment the right message to both give society as a whole and kids who are making these sales?”
- The Girl Scouts sells 200 million boxes a year and several of their cookie varieties use partially hydrogenated oils, which create trans fats, which the FDA is currently considering removing from its list of GRAS (“Generally Recognized As Safe”) food ingredients
In response to a caller who mentioned that the consumption of cookies is simply a matter of personal responsibility, Dr. Freedhoof responded that the notion of personal responsibility would suggest an epidemic loss of will power. When, instead, the world has changed. Girl Scouts have been selling cookies since 1917. Maybe back then it was the only cookie charity, he says, Today, food companies “pacify, reward and entertain us at every single turn.” We have to draw lines somewhere—we don’t sell cigarettes for charity and it’s not that one cigarette would kill us either; it’s the chronic use that’s the problem. “I wonder whether we should consider it time to stop selling sugar for charity,” he continued.
- “They’re selling illness”; “It’s the pattern that what we have adopted is normal is the problem”
As you can see—the Girl Scouts are being used as an example and the question really is much broader: should we stop fundraising with sugar-filled foods? In our current food environment, where foods that should be “sometimes foods” are sold at every turn, should Girl Scouts, et al, really be adding to the challenge? Especially if the mission behind the organization fundraising is to alleviate an illness that can largely be prevented by a healthful diet or to teach social responsibility?
Fundraising with “junk foods” is being completely challenged nationwide with the USDA’s new “Smart Snacks In School” rules, which go into effect this July 1st at all 100k+ schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program. It’s currently up to each state agency to determine how many “exemptions” they will allow their schools, but, essentially, schools will be limited in how many times per year they can fundraise on campus with foods that do not meet the new rules. Shouldn’t organizations, especially kids-focused ones, work in alignment with this shift?
I’d love to know your thoughts via this survey:
What do I think?
As a PR person, I think there’s a big opportunity for the Girl Scouts to pave a new way and to teach young girls how to disrupt the status quo, to spark change and to work with progress rather than against it. Organizations (and brands) should focus on alignment, not an easy buck. I mean…how silly is it for Beyonce to be a spokesperson for Let’s Move while also being a spokesperson for Pepsi (and paying her interns in soda…I’m not kidding)?
You guys know that I practice intuitive and non-restrictive eating, so I sure do eat cookies and cake and whatever I want. But, it has taken me a decade to get to this point and I know, from experience, that it’s a lot harder to practice mindful eating as a child especially when you’re living in a food environment that’s saturated with decadent desserts and snacks.
What do you think? If not cookies…then what? What else could the Girl Scouts do to fundraise?
The Cranky One