Let’s make halloween less scary (and more fun) for kids with food allergies!
I’m a holiday traditionalist. I break out the mums and pumpkins on the first of October and unpack the heirloom ornaments while Ohio State (hopefully) puts away Michigan on the football field each November. When it comes to trick-or-treating, I love candy as much as my daughter and husband. We’ll gladly eat what my son can’t due to his food allergies, but tradition to our family means togetherness.
Now that my son is turning three, we want him to enjoy Halloween trick-or-treating and parties with us. He already wants to do everything his sister does. Climb the rock wall? Go for it, buddy. Go down the big slide? You got this, pal. Trick-or-treat? Hold, please.
How do you explain to a three-year-old that he either can’t come with us or must return nearly all the brightly colored goodies in his personalized Pottery Barn pumpkin sack? In years past, he didn’t understand what he was missing. Now, he’ll feel left out. This is not our choice or preference, but it’s how we must live our lives. Every. Day.
For one in 13 children in the U.S. who have a food allergy, “Trick or Treat?” can quite literally be a trick question. Potentially life-threatening food allergies challenge millions of families like mine, and Halloween presents additional obstacles. It kicks off a whole holiday season of festivities centered around food. What should be fun can be scary and even deadly for these children if they eat or make skin contact with food containing allergens, like milk, peanuts and egg in my son’s case.
The Teal Pumpkin Project is changing that by making Halloween more safe and inclusive for all. Since 2014, this effort led by FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) has been gaining momentum to help ensure every trick-or-treater comes home with something to enjoy.
So here is my plea – the same message so many moms like me are delivering to our neighbors:
If you plan to pass out candy for Halloween, could you please consider also picking up some small non-food items (stickers, crayons, etc.) and keep them away from the candy to limit contamination? We’d love for all children to be able to participate in Halloween and appreciate help from the community to keep them safe.
If you’re willing to provide a non-food treat, here is a teal pumpkin you can print and display indicating your home is safe for these families to come to your door. If we don’t see a teal pumpkin, we’ll simply go to the next house.
Not sure what to hand out? Examples of allergy-friendly Halloween treats include these items, many of which cost less than traditional candy:
- Spooky jewelry like plastic spider rings and barbed wire bracelets
- Stickers, notepads, pencils/crayons, erasers and bookmarks
- Bubbles, glow sticks, noisemakers, bouncy balls, playing cards and other toys
- Top 8 Allergen-Free Enjoy Life chocolates, YumEarth gummies and lollipops, Made Good Vanilla Crispy Squares, and Surf Sweets Gummy Worms and Spooky Spiders
If you already have a teal pumpkin or want to do more to spread the word, try these activities:
- Register your home – Add your household to FARE’s interactive Teal Pumpkin Project Participation Map so local food allergy families can find your house.
- Display a teal pumpkin at your office – A teal pumpkin on your work desk is a festive conversation-starter with colleagues and clients.
- Share teal pumpkin pics on social media – Use the hashtag #TealPumpkinProject and when you share photos of your teal display or safe treats.
- Get crafty – Paint or decorate a real pumpkin teal or buy one from a craft store. There are even carving kits that come with teal tea lights. Bring Teal Pumpkin Project coloring sheets and other free resources to your next playgroup, PTA meeting or other gathering.
- Lead by example – Instead of candy, bring non-food treats to your school, church or family celebrations. This applies year-round to party favors, goody bags and rewards. Who doesn’t like having choices and variety? This makes activities healthier and more inclusive and can encourage others to follow suit.
If you’re looking to attend an allergy-friendly Halloween event, NEOFAN, the Northeast Ohio Food Allergy Network, is partnering with Eton Chagrin Boulevard shopping center for its Boo-tique Trick-or-Treat October 26 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Non-food items will be offered in addition to traditional candy.
Finally, if you or someone you know is affected by food allergies and want to become part of NEOFAN and the support and resources it offers, visit www.NEOFAN.org to sign up to receive news and/or get involved. You can also search Facebook for food allergy groups in your area.
I wish everyone a safe, happy and teal Halloween. May this be the beginning of a joyful and inclusive holiday season. Let’s #KeepItTeal into the new year!
Please note, this post is based on one I wrote for NEOFAN, which appears on its website and includes a template neighborhood letter by local food allergy mom Vikki Meldrum.