We are creeping closer and closer to Halloween, and the spooky decorations and costume planning are in full swing. For nearly all children, the promise of trick-or-treating is one of the more appealing aspects of Halloween. But for children with dietary restrictions due to medical conditions or food allergies, trick-or-treating can be anything but a treat.
As you and your family are scoping out the neighborhood’s seasonal décor, chances are you may notice a few more colorful pumpkins among the typical orange, gold, or white variety. For the past several years, teal pumpkins have been popping up on porches, stoops and in general Halloween displays. What does it mean?
These bright colored pumpkins are representative of The Teal Pumpkin Project, a worldwide initiative to make Halloween more inclusive for the estimated 6 million children with food allergies.
What is the Teal Pumpkin Project?
Started in 2014 by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee, the Teal Pumpkin Project is a worldwide movement to raise awareness of food allergies and create a safer, more inclusive Halloween for all children. The Teal Pumpkin Project encourages families to give out non-food treats such as small toys and other trinkets.
The Teal Pumpkin Project has gained massive popularity and traction in recent years, with thousands of families across the globe participating and spreading the word. The project was so successful, it was eventually adopted by the Food Allergy Research Education organization, which has created even more opportunities for children to enjoy trick or treating, without the danger of being exposed to an allergen.
Why are food allergies such a big deal at Halloween?
Food allergies are a life-altering and potentially life-threatening disease. This is a growing public health issue, with one in 13 children in the U.S. having a food allergy. That’s roughly two per classroom! For these kids, even a small amount of an allergen can cause a severe reaction.
Many popular Halloween candies contain nuts, milk, egg, soy or wheat, which are among some of the most common food allergens. Beyond that, many mini and fun-size food items do not have ingredients labeled, making it increasingly difficult for parents and children to know what they’re consuming.
In addition to children with food allergies or intolerances, many other children have benefitted from this project, including children with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE), Celiac disease, food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), children with feeding tubes, and any child on a special diet.
How do I participate in The Teal Pumpkin Project?
Supporting and participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project is simple. Here are a few fun, easy and effective ways:
Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters.This simple act can mean so much for a child with a dietary restriction or medical condition. Treats do not have to be candy to be loved by children! Your local dollar store is a fabulous resource for scoring some inexpensive non-food treats. Here are a few fun ideas for non-food trinkets that will be happily scooped up by tiny hands:
- Bouncy Balls
- Mini Slinkies
- Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers
- Friendship bracelets
- Crayons or markers
- Glow sticks, bracelets or necklaces
- Pencil topper erasers
- Spider rings
- Vampire fangs
- Finger puppets
Tip: Steer clear of items such as Play-Doh and balloons, which can contain common allergens such as wheat and latex.
Place a teal pumpkin on your porch.Paint a pumpkin teal (using some acrylic paint like this) or buy a pre-made teal pumpkin (such as this one or this one). The simple addition is colorful and fun and lets trick-or-treaters know that your home is food allergy-friendly.
Display a Teal Pumpkin Project sign or decal.Here is the official Teal Pumpkin Project poster, which can be easily printed and hung in a window or on your front door to indicate you have non-food treats available. Laminate it for easy reuse next year!
Here are a few other helpful and cute signs you can display:
For a bit more oomph, create a yard sign by printing this 11x17 flyer and mounting to a piece of poster board or wood staking it in your front yard! Or, buy this ready made yard sign.
For more ideas, check out this list of free resources from FARE. Tons of cute ideas to spread the word – pumpkin stencils, coloring sheets, sticker pages, and more!
Add your home to the Teal Pumpkin Project map.This interactive map allows participating families to add their home address or street, allowing trick-or-treaters to see that your home is a food allergy-friendly. Sidenote: to keep the map as updated as possible, it gets reset every year, so you’ll have to add your address each year.
Share this info with your family and friends!The more people who are aware, the more successful this project will be, and the more children will enjoy a happy, safe Halloween. Sharing posts about the Teal Pumpkin Project (such as this one you’re reading) on social media is extremely helpful in spreading the word, but old-fashioned flyers can do the trick too.
Here are a few flyers to print & post up at local cafes, shops, or schools.
Can I still pass out candy?
Of course! The Teal Pumpkin Project is meant to be inclusive, which doesn’t mean taking the fun away from kids who can safely enjoy candy. Safety is the key here – so be sure to keep food treats and non-food treats separated, and ask trick-or-treaters if they have any food allergies or allow them to pick a candy or non-food treat.
Do you have a child with a food allergy? Consider grabbing one of these adorable teal pumpkin buckets, which can quickly indicate that your child has a dietary restriction. Plus, they’re so cute!
We hope this rundown on the Teal Pumpkin Project has provided you with some useful information about how you can help keep Halloween inclusive for all children. For more info, be sure to check out FARE’s site.
Southern Scarlett wishes you all a spooktacular, safe, and happy Halloween!