Halloween treats can be tricky for some children

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Painting or buying a teal pumpkin and placing it on the porch will help children know which houses offer non-food or allergy-conscious treats. Teal pumpkin homes that register their address in the online FARE map database make it easier for families to celebrate a safer and happier Halloween. (Lynnette McConkie)

Halloween does not have to be scary for children with severe food allergies. The Teal Pumpkin Project aims to increase inclusivity for all children to enjoy trick-or-treating. 

The Food Allergy Research and Education organization, which advocates on behalf of more than 85 million Americans living with life-threatening food allergies and intolerances, reports one in 13 children live with food allergies. Many others struggle with diabetes and intolerances. These conditions make child-centered Halloween activities difficult and disappointing experiences.

“Putting a teal pumpkin on your doorstep means you have non-food treats available, such as glow sticks or small toys,” FARE states about the project. “This simple act promotes inclusion for trick-or-treaters with food allergies or other conditions.”

Amanda Clawson and her husband have been putting a teal pumpkin on their porch and offering non-food trinkets for Halloween even before they had kids of their own. They have always felt it is important to help all children have a fun time trick-or-treating. (Lynnette McConkie)

“Halloween is so hard for littles with Type 2 (diabetes),” Meggie Busath said. Busath is a mom of three children who do not suffer from food challenges, but she is aware that others’ children do. “Everyone is gorging on candy, and they have to be extra careful. Having options of little toys or trinkets makes it so much easier for their family.”

FARE started promoting the Teal Pumpkin Project nearly 10 years ago in an effort to bring awareness and “create a safer, happier Halloween for all kids.”

Amanda Clawson puts out a lighted teal pumpkin every year to indicate she has allergy-friendly treats.  

“My own kids all have food allergies.” Clawson said. “It’s impossible to explain to a toddler why they can’t eat certain things.”  

Clawson is not just concerned about her own children. She says there are many children in her own neighborhood who would benefit from greater awareness.

Raymie Crane, whose daughter has a severe peanut allergy, is hoping more people will hear about the project.

“We usually let (our daughter) go trick or treating but I have to go up to the door with her and tell her what she can and can’t have,” Crane said. “It’s sad when she has to walk away from houses because they don’t have a non-nut option.” 

After trick-or-treating, Crane shared she still inspects the contents of the treat bag to be sure they did not miss anything that would harm her child. “I love this idea,” she said, referring to the project.

The more aware the public becomes of these challenges, the more people offer non-food options for kids. However, for children with food allergies, knowing where those houses are has been hit or miss.

A teal pumpkin set near the door where children can see it signals that a food-challenged child has options. FARE reminds people to keep non-allergy treats in a separate bowl from other candies. (Lynnette McConkie)

FARE has an online map where neighbors can register their Teal Pumpkin address. They are urging people to sign-in so parents of children with severe responses to foods can easily decide where to go. 

Otherwise, as Kaylene Ennis, mother of three children (only one with food allergies), pointed out, the houses registered on the map are too far apart. “Driving to the (few) locations who posted they had teal pumpkins wouldn’t be beneficial for all my children.” 

The Teal Pumpkin Project is not just for people who have children with allergies. FARE encourages everyone to provide allergy-free options for those who need them. 

Though there are no food restrictions needed in her own family, Busath has taken action to make the holiday enjoyable for children who do.

“I felt like it’s not hard to have another option,” Busath said. “This is a huge kid-centered holiday and it would be so sad if not everyone can fully participate.”

Busath heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project a few years back and began putting out a teal pumpkin. Last year, she said she gave out little squishy toys.

On its website, FARE has a list of suggested allergy-conscious non-food treats.

“I am not saying we can’t give out (allergy reactive) treats,” Ennis said. She added she keeps the two kinds in separate bowls and asks each child what kind they would like.

“I had no idea how bad allergies can be until my daughter had it. It is so nice to have a safe option,” she said.

Participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project provides a simple way to include all children in trick-or-treating fun. This video explains how anyone can be a part of this movement to make Halloween safer and happier. (@foodallergyfare via Youtube)
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