Food Allergy Research & Education is back with the Teal Pumpkin Project
October 31 is just around the corner, which means our family is on the verge of decorating our home with creepy crawlers, spooky witches and teal-colored pumpkins. If you’re stumped by the teal-colored pumpkin part, allow me to introduce you to one of the coolest campaigns this side of the full moon.
Every Halloween season, hundreds of thousands of people band together in an act of solidarity, and, more importantly, to promote safety. Launched by Food Allergy Research & Education in 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project asks households to make a simple pledge:
I pledge to show some extra kindness to the kids I know. I’ll get some non-food treats at the store, like glow sticks, bracelets, stickers and more! I will put my teal pumpkin on proud display, on my porch, in a window, or on a bale of hay. My teal pumpkin means I support children with food allergies, because all kids deserve to have a safe, happy Halloween.
Boiled down to it, the Teal Pumpkin Project is a great way to show solidarity for kids with allergies. To reiterate: Participants paint and place teal-colored pumpkins at the front of their doorsteps, indicating that non-food treats are available for those who meander by. Over 100,000 households have already taken the pledge and many more have promoted the campaign since its launch a year ago. As a parent whose child has allergies, it’s nice to see it pick up steam.
As I’ve talked about before, my six-year-old daughter suffers from a nut and dairy allergy. That inevitably makes for an interesting Halloween season in our household. Peanut-based treats, chocolate-covered peanuts and candy that’s been produced in plants that contain even a hint of peanut or tree nut-based products practically overflow on October 31, meaning our annual trick-or-treating adventures are even scarier than most. Of the many days in a calendar year, Halloween is the one day when temptation runs rampant. It’s a day when kids, presumably, feel they can test the limits, especially when their allergy-free friends are devouring Reeses Peanut Butter Cup after Reeses Peanut Butter Cup at a rapid-fire rate.
At least one out of every 13 children suffers from a food allergy, and the tiniest amount of allergen can mean the difference between a fun-filled night of spooky splendor, or one that’s truly terrifying. And let’s face it: Halloween is one of those holidays that can make anyone with an allergy feel like an outsider.
The importance of things like the Teal Pumpkin Project can’t be overstated. I’ve taken part in my share of Halloween adventures over the years, and the biggest issue is less to do with the actual candy than the morale of my kiddo. Making her feel included is a delicate balancing act; we don’t want her eating dangerous food, but we also don’t want her neglected when a friend gets to indulge in chocolate treats and delectable candy.
In line with the Teal Pumpkin Project, there are several ways to make all your trick-or-treaters feel like they’re getting the full experience. Here’s what the folks at FARE recommend: Glow bracelets, pumpkin stencils, cool trick-or-treat bags, Halloween stickers, non-latex bouncy balls and black and orange friendship bracelets.
Here are some other things to take note of:
- Keep your bags separated. One for the candy crew and one for the non-candy crew, and make sure they’re separated with enough distance so one doesn’t contaminate the other.
- Though many kids won’t say much more than “trick-or-treat,” it’s worth prodding them for a bit extra. Ask if they’re allergic to anything or give them a choice between a non-food item and a food item.
- Diligent parents will keep an EpiPen with them. Scary as it sounds, you never know when you’ll have to administer one, even with a parent hanging out nearby. Nationwide Children’s Hospital put together a great video on the proper protocols. It’s a great intro/refresher on what to do in case of an emergency, especially if you’re a Teal Pumpkin participant.
- Buy candy with clear labels and listings of ingredients. You’re thinking this is completely counter-intuitive. And yes, it is, but there are those who won’t be so willing to admit they have an allergy. Should the little devils sneak a piece, their parents should have an easy way to see what the ingredients are as they filter through their bags. This gets a little more complicated when “fun-size” packaging omits ingredient and allergy information from the individual items, instead placing it only on the main bag or box.
- Be on the lookout for allergy bracelets. I talked about this in a previous post. They’re visible red flag and they’re important. If something unexpected happens, you can quickly identify the allergy and the proper protocol, assuming the parents have dashed off in another direction (maybe there’s another little goblin in their crew running around).
- Consider keeping safe treats at home for an exchange program. Each year, after we finish our trick-or-treat journey, we sit down at the dining room table and go through our daughter’s bag with her, looking for potentially unsafe items. For each one we find, we let her swap it for a safe item. It’s become a fun way to avoid her feeling like we’re just taking her candy.
So you may be wondering, “Why teal?” Teal happens to be the color of food allergy awareness and has been used to raise awareness for more than 20 years. Hope you’ll consider painting at least one of your pumpkins teal this Halloween. You’ll be making it much more inclusive for my daughter and for thousands of others.
To learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project, click here. The Teal Pumpkin Project and the Teal Pumpkin Image are trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).