UPDATE in 2015: This article is about what I did with my Girl Scout troop, but it applies to any children’s activity–and a lot of it also applies to adult activities where you might want to serve a snack! (I’m no longer a Girl Scout leader, but I expect to go back to it someday.) After reading about what did and didn’t work for me in snack management, visit Works-for-Me Wednesday to learn about what’s working for other people!
In my six years as a Girl Scout leader, we always had a snack during each troop meeting. We met from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m., so a few families fed their girls dinner before the meeting, but most families waited until after the meeting, and by the time they got home it might be later than their usual dinnertime . . . so we usually ate the snack early in the meeting to prevent girls from being hungry without spoiling their dinners.
We tried several different methods of snack supply:
- The founding leader set a policy that each girl’s parent(s) had to take a turn to help with the meeting and provide the snack. This worked out fine so far as snacks were concerned. The problems were that some families consistently dodged their turns (we got all of them at least once, but some parents volunteered again and again while others had one turn all year) and that many of the parents acted as if the snack was their sole responsibility and would try to spend the rest of the meeting reading or talking on a cell phone; we had to coax pretty hard to get them involved in helping with the activities.
- In the second and third years, we had the girls take turns bringing the snack; that is, we made it their responsibility to volunteer and follow through. We found that asking the girls, rather than parents, to volunteer meant that the responsibility rotated more evenly among families. This is how troop snacks were done in my troops as a girl, and we always had a decorated coffee can that was used to transport the snack and also served as a reminder to the snack hostess–that is, it would be sitting on your kitchen counter for a week, reminding you that it was your turn. When I was a leader and we found that many girls were bringing far too much food (eating took up too much of the meeting time and provided excessive calories), I decorated a can, figuring it would serve as a guideline for the total volume of food . . . but for some reason, our girls had a lot more trouble remembering the can (either when leaving the meeting at which they’d volunteered for next week’s snack, or when leaving home with the snack which they hadn’t put in the can) than the girls in my childhood troops, so we gave up on that. We continued to get excessive or unhealthy food more often than we’d like.
- In the fourth year, my co-leader and I took turns bringing the snack, which was purchased with troop funds. We suggested this to the girls at the beginning of the year, and they voted to do it and to set their dues at $1 per meeting instead of 50c per meeting so that we could budget 50c per girl per meeting for snacks. This solved the problem of girls bringing way too much food, things that allergic or vegan members couldn’t eat, or unhealthy foods. (For example, one girl had brought single-serving cups of hot-pink artificially-sweetened gelatin containing a few tiny morsels of pears, and her mother proudly told me, “I wanted to bring something healthy!” I was tempted to respond, “So why didn’t you?” but just smiled.) However, since both leaders were coming straight from work to the meeting by bus, transporting the snack was inconvenient.
- As we prepared to start the fifth year, I was feeling overwhelmed and did some brainstorming about new volunteer “positions” that might entice some of the parents to help us a bit more. I realized we could have a “snack mom” bring the snack to each meeting and be reimbursed with troop funds. This was my favorite of all the methods! We had good snacks, reliably provided, with less hassle for leaders. Snack Mom was very good at sticking to the budget and dietary restrictions. We just had to keep her informed of any changes in attendance patterns or dietary restrictions.
Once, in the era of girls bringing snacks, we had a learning opportunity: The snack hostess didn’t come to the meeting. Apparently it wasn’t a sudden change of plans–at school, she’d told another troop member that she wouldn’t be coming–but neither she nor her parents had informed the leaders that she wouldn’t be bringing the snack after all. One of the other leaders said we could feed the girls the candy she’d just bought for trick-or-treat, which was in her car. I quickly spoke up and said that if the girl who’s supposed to bring snack abandons her responsibility, there should be no snack. This teaches the girls that it’s important to follow through when you volunteer, whereas supplying an “emergency” snack would teach them that if they abandon their responsibilities grown-ups will cover for them. So we went straight into our activities at the point when we’d normally have snack, and then after the dress-for-the-weather relay race, we drank water, so the Assistant Hostess, Cup Collector, and Bubblers still had jobs to do. There was some grumbling about the lack of food, but I think the lesson got through.
Here are some of the snacks that were most popular:
- fruit plus a salty snack, such as apples and pretzels
- cheese and crackers (Choose crackers that taste good on their own, so that girls who are vegan or allergic to milk will be happy with just crackers.)
- corn chips and mild salsa
- O’s cereal and vanilla yogurt
- carrot sticks (cut ahead of time) or baby carrots
- nut butter and crackers
- make your own trail mix: raisins, nuts, pretzels, etc. are set out in bowls; each girl is given a small bag to fill
- popcorn plus juice (Never serve popcorn without something to drink!)
- granola bars (bought on sale with a coupon!)
To my surprise, most of the girls also liked raw kale! I was impressed by how much they enjoyed healthy foods when they were offered. They enjoyed junk, too, but they were interested in learning about nutrition and suggested relatively healthy foods when we planned meals for camp.