By Margaret Badore for DietsInReview.com
This past week I noticed a lot of friends posting on Facebook and Twitter about “Counter-Boycotting” the Girl Scouts by purchasing their signature cookies. Intrigued, I dug into the issue to discover that a Girl Scout troop in Colorado accepted a seven-year-old transgendered girl. This apparently outraged a number of conservative groups, who posted viral videos encouraging viewers to boycott the organization. Those who stand in solidarity with the Girl Scouts, and who generally want to promote the acceptance of trans-gendered people, have in turn launched the counter-boycott.
I think it’s awesome that Girl Scouts are supporting acceptance of a trans-gendered child, but I’m also not running out to buy cookies, not even just to taste the newly released Savannah Smiles. The Girl Scouts are an organization that teaches a lot of noble skills, but in a country that’s facing an unprecedented childhood obesity crisis, supporting them by purchasing unhealthy desserts no longer seems so wholesome.
“What sticks out to me about the popcorn is the level of sodium in the product,” says Kati Mora, MS, RD, dietitian for DietsInReview.com and her practice Around the Plate. “At 320 milligrams per serving that is a little high and this could probably be reduced.” Popcorn is a whole grain and high in fiber, but a number of the products have artificial flavors and colors. The Classic Caramel Corn has three forms of sugar before the actual popcorn.
I am in no way staying that any child should be deprived of sweets, and even an occasional highly-processed sugar bomb won’t hurt. But let’s face it: these fundraisers are not about moderation. Troops and individual scouts get rewarded for selling more, and it’s not as if the scout who comes knocking at your door is going to point out that the 12 boxes of Thin Mints you just ordered should be consumed over a period of several months, not days or even weeks.
Part of being a scout is about having a healthy, active life, so shouldn’t their fundraisers send the same message? There are so many ways for organizations to raise money, that will teach kids the same valuable lessons about money management and promote good nutrition. What about taking the candy out of that trail mix, along with some of the sodium? What about selling dried fruit? They could even move away from food products altogether. Last year, we shared these ideas for healthier fundraisers, which include CSA memberships and sponsoring participants in fun runs and 5Ks.
I know that selling popcorn and cookies have long become part of the scouting tradition, but nostalgia isn’t a good enough reason to hang on to an unhealthy product. The event that sparked the counter-boycott campaign shows that the Girl Scouts are evolving, it’s time their fundraisers did too. If you want to support either scout organization, or even boycott a candy-fueled fundraiser at your child’s school, all of these organizations accept cash donations (and your money will go further, too!).