While Girls Scouts nationally are facing millions of boxes of unsold cookies this COVID-19 year, Maine Girl Scout leaders said sales of their classic mint and other varieties thinned out and they avoided a large surplus, giving extras to Maine food programs.

The 2021 cookie season, which ran Feb. 1 to April 30, saw Maine Girl Scouts working remotely using direct sales online and implementing contactless delivery in an effort to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

Girl Scouts across Maine sold 804,096 boxes this year for a gross sales total of $4.03 million, according to Laura Genese, marketing and communications director for Girl Scouts Maine.

Genese said that a year earlier, despite halting in-person cookie booths midway through the season, troops in Maine sold 1,107,048 boxes for a total of nearly $4.44 million. In 2019, troops sold 1,118,244 boxes for $4.48 million.

Girls Scouts Alivia, 7, left, and Azilee, 9, goof around in a quiet moment between cookie sales at a drive-thru event April 6 in the Side by Each Brewing parking lot in Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file Buy this Photo

Despite the significant drop in sales during the pandemic, Genese remained optimistic about the program. She cited the organization’s “careful planning, inventory management (and) innovative opportunities to help girls and troops succeed,” and the “resilient” Girl Scouts who “set goals and worked hard to meet them.”

Pat Provost, the product programs supervisor for troops in the Lewiston area, was also impressed by the way various groups handled the pandemic.

Different approaches to sales included limiting two girls and two adults, all socially distanced, to work cookie booths. All sellers were expected to wear masks, and this year, she said, only adults were allowed to handle the cash.

In addition, Girl Scouts started drive-up stations where residents could stop at three booths: one to order, one to pay, and one to grab cookies.

Provost, whose responsibilities include the Lewiston area, excluding Auburn, said her troops saw a dramatic increase in online ordering. Customers could choose to order directly from the company or get their cookies delivered by a Girl Scout without having to pay shipping.

“We have always done girl-delivered sales, but promoted it for safety purposes this year,” she said. “It was just a matter of promoting the cookies differently.”

Last year the cookie companies direct shipped 109 cases to customers in the Lewiston area, while this year they shipped 400, Provost said. Each case contains 12 boxes.

Cookie sales are vital to the success of troops across the state, because 100% of proceeds remain within their organizations.

Fifty-eight percent of the funds support program activities, provide financial help and pay for summer camp subsidies, training resources, and other support for volunteers, according to Genese. An additional 19% is given directly to troops to fund travel, activities and events, while the remaining 23% is for the actual cost of the cookies and patches.

Cookie surpluses have been reported by Girl Scout troops across the country, however the Maine chapters did not face that difficulty, Genese said.

“This year our council had a historically low surplus of 77 cases of cookies, which were donated to Wayside Food Programs,” she said. In 2020, the troops faced a much larger surplus, which ended up going to front-line workers.

Wayside Food Programs aims to increase access to nutritious food in southern Maine and to donate shares of cookies to local food pantries. In communities not served by Wayside, Genese said, the troops donated to local Meals on Wheels programs.

Though Maine’s 924 boxes of leftover cookies may seem high, nationally the Girl Scouts reported a surplus of around 15 million boxes this year, according to The Associated Press.

Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Bakers, the two companies that make the cookies, are working with the Girl Scouts to sell or donate boxes to places, including food banks and the military.

“We typically add any surplus we do have to agency donations,” Genese said. “Each troop also may have their own surplus of cookies, and they can choose how they use them.”

Though this year’s sales were lower, Provost was not disappointed.

“I’m very pleased with the amount that we sold this year considering it’s the pandemic and all,” she said.

The cookie selling season for the Girl Scouts of Maine ended April 30 and is scheduled to begin again next winter.

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