White, green, orange and maybe even yellow pumpkins, are found in just about any pumpkin patch, but have you ever seen a teal pumpkin? I have. Ok, not in a pumpkin patch, but definitely on store shelves. Many see the teal pumpkins and think, “that’s pretty”. But, there is far more behind the teal pumpkin than just a decorative element. Food Allergy Resource & Education, FARE, created theTeal Pumpkin Project® to “raise awareness of food allergies and promote inclusion of all trick-or-treaters through the Halloween season.”
What is the Teal Pumpkin Project®?
The idea behind the Teal Pumpkin Project® was actually conceived during an awareness activity hosted by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee. FARE launched the project as a national awareness campaign in 2014. It serves to promote inclusion of all trick-or-treaters in a way that makes it safe and still enjoyable. People who wish to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project® display a teal pumpkin outside their door or hang a flyer or poster outside their home with the teal pumpkin logo. The display of a teal pumpkin indicates to trick-or-treaters that non-food treats are available.
Why should everyone know about this?
Halloween can be a scary, even life threatening, experience for those living with food allergies. And I don’t mean because of the ghosts, goblins and zombies that you will often encounter when you take your children trick-or-treating.
Does anyone else get chills when they see the spooky creations others come up with? No? Ok, I’ll move on.
When you have a child with food allergies, every knock on the door, every doorbell that is rang causes the parent to hold their breath.
My son has a peanut allergy. We cannot allow him to touch the wrappers of candy that contains peanuts since we have no way of knowing what level of exposure will result in anaphylaxis. When taking him trick-or-treating, I hover over his bag and watch what is given to him. Any candy contaminated with peanuts is quickly removed by myself or my husband and put into a separate bag that is later to be removed from our home. We have three children. Only one has an allergy, but we have to take any dangerous candy from all three children to dispose of it. That is three separate trick-or-treat bags that I am carefully watching simultaneously. Trick-or-treating for our family is a scary and exhausting process.
Here’s How You Can Help
It’s easy peasy lemon squeezy! FARE offers many free resources for advocating and educating on food allergies! You can paint a pumpkin teal and sit it outside your door or you can download a free poster from the FARE website to display outside your home! Teal is the color used to support food allergy awareness and has been used as such for over 20 years. By posting a sign or placing a teal pumpkin outside your home, you are indicating to food allergy families that there are non-food related treats available.
Just because you are supporting families with food allergies, does not mean you cannot continue to hand out candy. Just keep the candy and non-food treats in separate bowls! Guess what, the non-food treats can help other families of children that cannot have candy for a reason completely unrelated to food allergies! Win win!
Help! I have no idea what non-food treats to use!
Worry not my friend, I have compiled a list that will help you get some ideas. This list is not exhaustive, and I am sure there are many other options than what I have listed below, but this should give your brain the boost it needs to decide what is best for you! Hit up the local dollar store or wholesale distributor to get the most bang for your buck.
- Glow sticks
- Bracelets & Necklaces
- Crayons, markers, pencils, erasers
- Whistles, kazoos, noisemakers – the parents will totally love you for this!
- Vampire fangs
- Bouncy balls
- Finger puppets or other novelty items
- Puzzle books
There are many affordable options. One of my friends has even visited her local Goodwill to purchase miscellaneous trinket toys so that my kids have something other than candy to choose from! You should have seen the two youngest. They were thrilled!
It’s All About Safety & Inclusion
Those of us that are food allergy parents do not desire to strip the world of all things that cause our children to react. We simply want a safe environment for our kids to live, thrive and prosper. So, in a similar way that someone may provide handicap access, consider offering non-food treats so that all children can return from a fun night of trick-or-treating healthy and safe, instead of a life threatening trip to the hospital.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop