HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
March 19, 2007, Herald Journal

Girl Scout cookies under attack

By IVAN RACONTEUR

That innocent-looking Girl Scout in your neighborhood may be a pawn in a fiendish plot to make Americans fat.

The Scouts came under attack recently when a crackpot from New Jersey called for a nationwide boycott of Girl Scout cookies.

The woman, who claims to represent National Action Against Obesity, apparently feels that the cookies are part of some subversive plot on the part of the Scouts to ruin the health of Americans.

The cookies have been around for 90 years, but this must be akin to a league of embedded terrorists, because now (according to at least one person) it represents the exploitation of children to sell junk food, and this is contributing to an obesity epidemic.

The fact that cookie sales represent the largest fund-raiser for the group and generate about $700 million in revenue, suggests that the tasty treats are fairly popular among the general population.

Still, opponents say the organization needs to come up with a different way to raise money.

Something tells me that if they were to try to sell carrots or celery sticks instead of the infamous cookies, they would fall short of their financial goals.

Girl Scouts are clever, and they realize that people spend their money on what they want, not on what others think they should buy.

Some observers, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, have suggested that groups should use walkathons or other physical activity fund-raisers, rather than selling food items to raise money, and, as a concept, that is fine. But it should not be up to a few killjoys to dictate what is acceptable for everyone else.

Each group should be allowed to determine what type of fund-raiser is appropriate for its situation, and each consumer should be allowed to decide where to spend his money.

The idea that the Scouts are doing something reprehensible is absurd.

There are plenty of people who look forward to their annual fix of Samoas or Tagalongs, but it seems unlikely that even the most ardent fan is under the impression that the cookies are intended as health food.

The fact that they are sold by fresh-faced girls in uniform has probably not caused anyone to think the cookies are good for them.

It is unlikely that anyone really believes that eating a box of Thin Mints will make him thin.

People buy cookies because they are good, not because they are good for them, and that is their choice.

Are the Girl Scouts really to blame for Americans’ expanding waistlines?

Girl Scout cookies are sold once each year. Plenty of worse things (from a health perspective) are available any time, day or night, all year around.

Are we going to let the food police ban other products that they deem unacceptable?

According to the Center for Disease Control, 18 percent of US kids between the ages of 6 and 11 are overweight, but this is not the result of a few cookies once a year.

It is a lifestyle issue.

The occasional treat is not going to hurt anyone who eats an otherwise balanced diet and gets regular exercise.

Are we also going to boycott video games and cable TV because they contribute to a sedentary lifestyle for children?

On the other side of the spectrum, the fashion industry has come under attack, and has banned models that are too thin.

In an effort to diffuse some pressure, some industry leaders have come together and agreed on a definition of how thin is too thin.

During the Madrid fashion week last fall, models weighing less than 125 pounds were banned from the runway.

Critics say that models and some celebrities promote an unhealthy image by being too thin, which leads to eating disorders among young girls.

One might also ask who it is that finds emaciated stick insects attractive, and why this look is popular among designers in the first place, but understanding the fashion industry is a question for another column.

As one reads these stories, one might find it hard to find common ground.

Apparently, kids are either too thin or too fat, and in either case, something has to be done about it.

One can’t help think that maybe these are not food issues or weight issues, but nose issues.

Some people just can’t help but stick their over-developed beaks into other peoples’ affairs.

If people would just mind their own business, things might run much more smoothly.

If one has to take up a cause, there are plenty of important issues out there that one might address without attacking the Girl Scouts or the stick-figures.

The Scouts want to sell some cookies, and the models probably ought to eat a cookie, but these are their choices to make, not ours.