Stuff to know.

Not even Girl Scout cookies and gap-tooth smiles are sweet enough for this economy. Here and throughout the country, sales for the venerable fundraiser, which dates to World War I and survived the Great Depression, are down.

The size of the cookie product has crumbled a little, too. To keep flour, fuel and cocoa costs from pushing the price beyond $3 a box, producers "adjusted the net weight," said W. Shawna Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Ohio's Heartland council.

Shannon Krumm tried her best to meet the challenge when she knocked on doors in her far west side neighborhood in January. "I was hoping," the sixth-grader said. "But a lot of people were like, 'Oh, I'm sorry.' " Shannon's mom, Christine Stein, said her troop sold about 2,300 boxes of cookies during the first half of the sale last year. "This year, we're barely at 1,500," she said.

Hopes now ride on the second half of the season, known as the booth sale. Through March 22, Scouts will be selling boxes on the spot - outside stores and schools, for example - instead of taking advance orders. "Our troop has never, ever done booth sales, but we're going to this year," said Christina Cantwell, a Grove City-area leader. "We need that 50 cents-a-box profit."

Gibbs said first-half tallies are still trickling in, so the council isn't sure of the bottom-line decrease. They know it is significant. "We're concerned," she said. "The deeper implications are the programs and the services." The council uses some of the cookie money to help offset Scouting costs for families who can't afford the clothing and activities. "More and more families are requesting assistance," Gibbs said. "We don't ever want economic status to prevent girls from participating."

Leaders tried to prepare girls for a tough market. The Girl Scouts host Smart Cookie University, a training workshop that focuses on the sale. "Girls are getting it," Gibbs said. "Even down to the little Brownies. They say, 'We're going to smile more!' "

Icy weather was another problem, but the peanut butter-salmonella scare seemed to have no effect. "Actually, our peanut-butter cookie sales are up a little," Gibbs said.

Lisa Berger, a troop leader in Gahanna, said troops use much of their cookie money on service projects. At the booth sales, patrons often can purchase boxes to donate directly to charitable organizations or designate them for troops overseas.

"We really try to get the money put back into the community," Berger said. First they have to make it. So, at a booth near you, look for Scouts with bigger signs, brighter smiles and a whole bunch of cookies.



Make your own

An early Girl Scout recipe for sugar cookies:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar plus additional amount for topping (optional)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

Cream butter and the cup of sugar; add well-beaten eggs, then milk, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking powder. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Roll dough, cut into trefoil shapes, and sprinkle sugar on top, if desired. Bake in a quick oven (375 degrees F) for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Makes six- to seven-dozen cookies.
Source: Girl Scouts of the USA