Living with food allergies is never easy, but it can be especially difficult for children during Halloween, a holiday defined by going door-to-door collecting the very treats that may be off-limits.
While these children may still trick-or-treat, many end up giving much of their candy away. But a campaign called the Teal Pumpkin Project aims to make Halloween safe and fun for all by offering alternatives for children with food allergies. Since 2014, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has led this campaign to raise awareness of food allergies and promote inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the season.
By placing that teal-hued squash on the porch along with your standard Jack O’ Lantern, participants indicate their homes offer non-food alternatives.
“Food allergies can be really serious, but by providing options families can keep Halloween safe for everybody,” said Valerie Novak, a nurse practitioner with SCL Health. “The campaign isn’t about taking candy away but making the holiday safe and fun. And there are so many sugary and fatty treats around that kids without allergies (and their parents) might enjoy the non-food items, too!”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern affecting between four and six percent of children in the U.S. When you have a food allergy, your immune system mistakenly responds to certain food as if it were harmful, triggering reactions that can include digestive problems, hives, swollen airways and even anaphylaxis—a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.
So are you ready to join the movement? Take these three simple steps to get involved this Halloween:
Step 1: Pick up some non-food treats
There are plenty of fun ideas for non-food treats to pass out in lieu of (or in addition to) some of the more typical Halloween candy. Try your local dollar store for a variety of inexpensive items, like:
- Finger puppets
- Glow sticks
- Playing cards
- Bouncy balls
- Comic books
If you’re offering both candy and non-food items, keep them in separate containers to avoid contamination.
Step 2: Create or find your own teal pumpkin
Pick up some non-toxic teal paint and a paintbrush and add a fun new activity—pumpkin painting—to go along with your Jack-O-Lantern carving. We know life gets crazy, so if you don’t have time to be painting pumpkins you can shop for one at retailers like Michael’s and Target.
Step 3: Spread the word that you’re participating
Before October 31, be sure to place that teal pumpkin in a visible spot and print out a free sign to post on the door. You can even add your home address or street to the crowd-sourced fever map to let parents know your home is participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project.
That’s it! A fun family activity that gets everyone involved and provides treats for all.
The TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT® and the Teal Pumpkin Project® logo are registered trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Photo credit: FARE