The Teal Pumpkin Project: Halloween Treats for Kids with Food Allergies

updated Dec 4, 2019
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When my daughter was eight months old, she had dropped from the 90th to the 9th percentile for weight and was dangerously hovering on the borderline of failure to thrive. After hospitalizations and many, many tests, it was determined that she had a severe allergy to both dairy and soy, which, unfortunately, is in virtually everything. She was basically limited to eating whole foods. But that didn’t mean we wanted to prevent her from participating in all of the things that make childhood fun — birthday parties, Christmas dinners, and yes, trick-or-treat were still on the menu.

But it wasn’t always easy to keep her safe. At birthday parties I had to constantly hover over her to make sure another child didn’t share their cake, candy, or ice cream with her. At family events like Christmas and Thanksgiving, I always debated between bringing her a completely separate meal or asking family members to keep track of what ingredients they put into their dish. On Halloween night, we dug through her bag of treats, read the ingredients, and removed all of the offending pieces. But we were one of the lucky families. Our daughter didn’t have a reaction unless she actually consumed the food. Some kids aren’t so lucky. Some kids can have a severe and life-threatening reaction just from touching, or even breathing the wrong food.

(Image credit: Lauren Hufnagl)

While I don’t think we should bubble wrap our children or expect other people to cater to them, I do think it’s a lovely idea to let them know if your house is allergy-friendly. To give them peace of mind knowing that when they walk up to your door, they’ll be safe. They’ll have options. There will be a treat for them, too.

And that’s what the teal pumpkin project is all about. Created by FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), the project encourages families to paint one of their pumpkins teal and place it on their porch to signal that they have non-food treats available for those Elsas, Annas, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who so often have their holidays limited by severe food allergies.

FARE is also offering a free printable poster that you can place in your window to make sure families understand that you have non-food treats available.

The best part is, there’s no requirement to participate. There’s no judgement for those who don’t join in. Maybe you don’t have the time or budget to gather a separate bowl full of trinkets, or maybe you just want to do what you’ve always done. Maybe you think this is the world gone crazy. All I know is that our daughter thankfully outgrew her food allergies by the time she was three, but for those little ones who still suffer from them, we’ll be painting a pumpkin teal this year. Because everyone should be able to enjoy the best parts of childhood.

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