The Teal Pumpkin Project

By Amber Mabe

Halloween costumes and candy hit the shelves in August this year, and my son has been talking about trick-or-treating ever since. For kids (and grown-ups) around the world, Halloween is a time for parties, costumes, and more candy than their parents will possibly let them eat. But for many children, trick-or-treating can be a dangerous and disappointing time. More than 10 percent of kids in the U.S. suffer from some type of food allergy, many of them life-threatening. For these children, biting into or sometimes even touching the wrong treat can cause reactions such as swelling, hives, anaphylaxis, and in some cases death. Halloween treats often contain peanuts, milk, wheat, and other common allergens that make it impossible for children with allergies to enjoy them as other kids can. Esophageal issues, celiac disease, and many other circumstances can also require children to be on a special diet that would keep them from partaking in Halloween candies or treats.

In 2012, one Tennessee mom, who was also the director of a local food allergy support group, had the idea to paint a pumpkin teal and place it on her porch to raise awareness for kids with food allergies and let them know that her home would be handing out non-food Halloween treats. This act sparked a chain of events that garnered the attention of Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), and the teal pumpkin was launched as an international campaign.

So what can you do for kids in your community with food allergies this Halloween season? First, paint a pumpkin! Painting a teal pumpkin together with your family is a great way to raise awareness and teach your children about being sensitive to the needs of others and making sure no one feels left out during trick-or-treating. If painting pumpkins is not your thing, get creative! Paint a wooden sign, buy a teal bucket to hold non-food options for trick-or-treaters. If you are short on time, there are plenty of online resources that allow you to print signs to stick on your door letting kids know you have treats for everyone. If you are planning a Halloween party, reach out to parents to see if there are any special considerations. If possible, plan a variety of snack options and serve them in separate containers with their own serving utensils. Do not be afraid of opening a dialogue with friends and neighbors about food allergies and what you can do to help keep their children safe.

Does this mean you cannot give out candy to trick-or-treaters? No! Putting the teal pumpkin on your porch indicates a safe option that is available for kids with allergies, but you can still give out candy in a separate bowl. Need ideas for non-food items to hand out? Here are a few spooky treats that will be sure to please your visitors:

  • Bubbles
  • Slap Bracelets
  • Bouncy Balls
  • Plastic Bugs
  • Spider Rings
  • Googly Eyes
  • Stickers
  • Stamps
  • Glow Sticks
  • Spooky Erasers

These are just a few ideas, but if you need more inspiration check the party favor area in your favorite store or visit a local dollar store. If you have time to prepare, online retailers have plenty of options for bulk orders of Halloween favors.

A small act can go a long way in bringing joy to a child who may have felt left out in the past, as well as bringing peace of mind to a parent who is used to being on constant guard for their child’s health and safety during what should be a fun and exciting time. Consider how you can make a difference in your community by joining the Teal Pumpkin Project this year.

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