What’s up with the Teal Pumpkin?
It’s time you know about the Teal Pumpkin Project
October is a pretty great month for a lot of people: fall colors, pumpkin spiced foods (this year with 170% more pumpkin), fall flavored beers (my favorite) and trees/leaves changing colors.
Or, for those of you who don’t have seasons (I’m looking at you, San Antonio) – fall is that time of year when your hot, humid, bug-filled weather turns slightly more tolerable.
(Note: I love the cold, the snow, and not-bugs — so when Kristie and I had to spend 2 years in Texas it was slightly worse than miserable and left me with possible seasonal-PTSD).
For many kids (and some adults) it also means that special day at the end of the month where you get to dress up and it somehow becomes ok to take candy from strangers: Halloween.
I loved Halloween as a kid. For me, the best part was at the end of the night when you laid out all your candy (as did all your friends) and created very intricate trades to get all the skittles and get rid of all the tootsie rolls.
What about kids with food allergies?
But how much fun would it be if you went trick-or-treating, got a bunch of candy, got back to your house but then had to get rid of the majority of your candy?
How much fun would it be if your parents go through all your loot and remove anything that has peanuts/tree nuts or to have all the milk-chocolate and other dairy-based foods taken away?!
That’s how Halloween is for food allergy kids.
The Teal Pumpkin movement is a way for all these kids to still experience the fun we remember having during Halloween.
Food allergies affect 1 out of every 13 kids (6-8% of kids) and, as I think we all have experienced, food allergy awareness has been on the rise as have school/day care accommodations.
What is Teal Pumpkin Project?
The Teal Pumpkin project is in its third year and was initially started by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee as a local project. They took the project nationally in 2014 and last year there were participants in all 50 states and across 14 different countries!
The Teal Pumpkin project’s mission is about inclusion and community and helping all kids with food allergies participate in a fun and exciting holiday.
By placing a teal pumpkin or some other identifying sign in your yard/house, you are letting all the food allergic kids know that you have a non-food, allergy-safe alternative for them! That way, they can enjoy your house the most during Halloween!
Who Benefits from the Teal Pumpkin Project?
Remember, 1 in 13 kids have a true IgE-mediated, potentially life-threatening food allergy (and many more have food intolerances). The biggest food allergies affecting kids are milk, eggs, peanuts, all other tree nuts, soy or wheat.
Now think of your favorite Halloween candy: snickers, almond joy (which has nuts, and mounds don’t… thanks marketing person who thought that up, you’ve stained a part of my brain forever) and think of all the different allergens in that one piece of candy!
Did you know that many miniature or “fun size” candies contain DIFFERENT ingredients than the regular bars? So a candy bar that is ok to eat full size might be dangerous in the smaller size!
Second note: I’m not entirely sure this isn’t a conspiracy among a group of children-elite (the playground 1%) to trick us all into giving full sized candy at Halloween!
These Kids Benefit from the Teal Pumpkin Project
So in general, these are the kids who will benefit the most from the Teal Pumpkin Project:
- Food allergies
- Food intolerances
- Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE)
- Celiac disease
- Milk intolerance or dairy-free
- Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES)
- Food protein proctocolitis (FPP)
- Any child on a special diet
An even easier way to think of the benefits
If you want to make it easier, think of it this way: for whatever reason, these kids are not able to enjoy a full balanced diet like those of us without food allergies.
So why not do a little extra to help them enjoy Halloween as much as we did?!
How to Participate?
There are many ways to participate.
Place a Teal Pumpkin at your Doorstep
The most direct way to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project is in the name itself: either purchase a plastic teal pumpkin or pain a pumpkin teal. That’s it! When Halloween rolls around, all the kids who are trick-or-treating will know that your house is a safe one for them to visit!
At my house, I’m going to get some teal paint and a pumpkin and have Emmett paint it with me. The benefits, to me, are that this is a project which we can do together, will take a few hours (so Kristie can have some peace) and will help educate Emmett to think of other kids and to hopefully inspire him to continually think of others. (The risk, of course, will be when we spill the paint all over his clothes, his shoes, and probably the floor… I better start thinking of ways to apologize to Kristie now!)
Teal Pumpkin Sign in your Yard
I’m also placing a sign in my yard and will probably put it up a few days before Halloween so that kids can know they’ll get a special non-food treat at my house this year.
I got this sign off amazon, but there are many more yard signs available so take your pick!
Print off a Teal Pumpkin Sign
The easiest way is to simply print off a Teal Pumpkin sign or flyer and have it posted near your doorstep or on your door! This will still help kids know that your house is safe for them to trick-or-treat at!
If you want to download these materials, I am going to refer you to the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) site. They have great materials and, since the movement is still pretty young, more standardized materials will make them easier for kids to recognize.
What to give as Candy Alternatives
Placing a teal pumpkin on your doorstep is only the first part. The second part is supplying a candy alternative!
This is where a lot of people seem to get stuck.
I don’t know if it is because of tradition (they’re trying to find an allergy safe food product to give) or if it’s just because it’s a different way of thinking about it. So let me help:
Halloween is not about the candy as a child. It’s about getting prizes, treats, and surprises at every house! So for the Teal Pumpkin Project, think of giving kids treasures and prizes!
My best example is to think about the dentist. When Emmett goes to the dentist the following things will happen:
- He’ll say he’s going to be brave. Then he does his nervous laugh.
- In the chair itself, he will freak the f&^k out: crying, anger, fear/terror! It breaks my heart and at the same time makes me very upset (I’m working on it so that I’m a better parent).
- Eventually we can calm him enough to either do the checkup or to schedule it to be done under anesthesia.
- He gets a $0.05 prize at the end and LOVES it for the rest of the week.
It’s all about the prize at that point!
That’s what we need to do for our food allergic kids!
Some Specific Ideas
Many websites will list the same standard ideas. I’m going to try and give you a few different ones, such as:
- Glow sticks
- Emoji thingies
- The current Game of Thrones season on DVD (definitely appropriate for children!)
Make it easy on yourself
But why make life harder than it needs to be? I have links to a few amazon items that are, essentially, “grab bags” of gifts. 100+ assorted prizes and toys and then you don’t even have to worry about it.
Teal Pumpkin Challenge
It’s currently about 2 weeks until Halloween. For those of you reading this with enough time, I have a challenge for you:
- Take part in the Teal Pumpkin Challenge this year!
- Tell one friend about it (you can share this post to make it easier).
- Send me at least one picture (and post one on Facebook so that people can ask you about it).
- After Halloween, let me know if you had any great stories of kids who were thankful (or snotty kids who weren’t) and whether you thought it was a good idea or a bad one.
This isn’t as catchy as an ice-bucket challenge (although you can pour pumpkin guts on your head… maybe I’ll roll that out next year) but it will make an immediate impact for kids with food allergies.
If you have any questions, please let me know. You can also go to the Food Allergy Research and Education website and read their page on the teal pumpkin project here.