Halloween can be a tricky time for families managing food allergies. The Teal Pumpkin Project aims to change that, by providing an alternative for kids with food allergies, as well as other children for whom candy is not an option. The aim is to make Halloween into a fun, positive experience for everyone.
In the U.S., one in 13 children has a food allergy – that’s roughly two kids in every classroom. To help these kids, and other children such as those with diabetes or celiac disease who can’t have sweet treats, fully enjoy Halloween trick or treating, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) launched the “Teal Pumpkin Project.”
Teal, says FARE, is “the color of food allergy awareness and has been used to raise awareness about this serious medical condition for nearly 20 years.”
Houses displaying teal-colored pumpkins (whether real or printed on signs) have pledged to provide non-food treats for Halloween visitors. FARE notes on its website that virtually any food can cause a reaction, so non-food offerings are the safest way to go.
“Many popular Halloween candies contain nuts, milk, egg, soy or wheat, which are some of the most common allergens in children and adults. Additionally, many miniature or fun-size versions of candy items contain different ingredients than their full-size counterparts and some miniature candy items may not have labels, so it is difficult for parents to determine whether these items are safe for their child with food allergies,” says FARE.
What sort of non-food treats can people provide? Plenty. The list includes:
- Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces
- Pencils, pens, crayons or markers
- Halloween erasers or pencil toppers
- Mini Slinkies
- Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers
- Bouncy balls
- Finger puppets or novelty toys
- Spider rings
- Vampire fangs
- Mini notepads
- Playing cards
All of the items above are available at a low cost at dollar stores, party supply stores, or online shops, often in a festive Halloween theme. But FARE also notes that just because an item isn’t food, that doesn’t make it allergy-free.
“Some non-food items still contain food allergens, such as some brands of moldable clay, which may contain wheat. Additionally, try to choose latex-free items, as there are children who have latex allergies,” FARE advises, in the FAQ on its website.
FARE says that it is not the organization’s goal to exclude candy from the Halloween tradition. But by encouraging households to provide non-food treats, either instead of or in addition to sweet snacks, all kids can enjoy the thrill of trick or treating.
“Many kids with food allergies go out to trick-or-treat just like their friends, but they have come to understand that a lot of their fun will come from dressing up in a costume. They know they’ll give much of their candy away because it’s not safe for them. We hope the Teal Pumpkin Project becomes a tradition for years to come so that kids will know that when they knock on someone’s door that has a teal pumpkin, they’ll have a treat they can fully enjoy,” FARE said in a statement.
If you are offering both sweets and non-food treats, keep them in separate bowls to avoid cross-contamination. When the costumed kids come knocking, you can (says FARE) either ask trick-or-treaters if they have any food allergies, or give every visitor a choice of which treat they’d like: candy or a non-food item.
Last year, households from 50 states and 7 countries participated in the Teal Pumpkin Project. This year, over 100,000 households have already pledged to participate. There’s still time for you to join in the fun too – head to the FARE website and find out how. You can also download a free, printable Teal Pumpkin Project sign from the site, as well as educational materials on food allergies.
For parents or guardians who will be taking kids on a trick or treat adventure can check FARE to view a map of nearby homes who are participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project.
And don’t forget to post pictures on the social media networks of your choice using the hashtag #tealpumpkinproject if you want to help FARE spread the word.
Happy, healthy Halloween!