- Teal pumpkins signify a food-allergy awareness program known as the Teal Pumpkin Project.
- The non-profit program aims to bring awareness to common food allergens that are troublesome for children on Halloween while inviting families to come up with solutions like toys and crafts instead of candy.
- Families can learn more about becoming involved in the Teal Pumpkin Project now, and potentially map out locations where others may find allergy-friendly households.
As more families are gearing up to get back to trick-or-treating, teal pumpkins are once again expected to make appearances on stoops in neighborhoods across the nation this Halloween. Unlike their orange-hued counterparts, these special gourds — which can be painted by hand or simply purchased from an arts and crafts section of a local retailer — are much more than just decor, as they play an important role for families dealing with a slew of food allergies during celebrations where sharing sweets is customary.
Food allergies, which range in severity but may present life-threatening challenges for young children (and can’t be cured yet!), are more commonplace now for American families than in years past. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that an estimated 8% of all children across the United States — about one in 13 total, in rough calculations — face food allergies that trigger a specific immune response to a particular ingredient. Eight different allergens are responsible for the most serious (potentially deadly) reactions on average: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts and tree nuts. Allergic reactions don’t always look the same, but as CDC officials note, 40% of children who have food allergies end up in the emergency room at some point due to their reactions.
At least five of those ingredients are found in plenty of Halloween candy, and since many don’t want their trick-or-treating experience ending at the emergency room, it makes sense that a solution was born from families at risk.
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What does a teal pumpkin mean when it’s displayed on a porch?
The hallmark of the Teal Pumpkin Project, a teal-colored pumpkin on display is designed to indicate to families in the know that the household is aware and prepared for children and teens who may be dealing with food allergy restrictions on Halloween.
Teal pumpkins are indeed supposed to help raise awareness on the ways food allergies may limit children of all ages during celebrations (like causing severe stomach aches!). But they’re also an indication that alternative options are available to trick or treaters. Families may choose to stock up on edible items that are free of common allergens, or even create grab bags featuring toys or crafts in place of sweets altogether.
Now sponsored by organizational officers at Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), a non-profit working to bring advocacy and awareness to food-specific allergies, the Teal Pumpkin Project has expanded to enable families to map out an allergy-friendly route in their city or town long before Halloween arrives. Families can register to receive more information here, including new instructions that will be specific for the upcoming 2021 season.
Teal is used to indicate food safety as the color has been used to raise awareness about food-related medical issues for many years, according to FARE.
How to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project:
If you’re looking to help your allergy-stricken child enjoy a safer Halloween, FARE has released materials for families and caregivers on their site. If you happen to see a teal pumpkin while you’re trick-or-treating, there’s a good chance that there’ll be non-edible treats for your child available at this home — or, at the very least, allergen-free snacks kept separate from other forms of candy.
But FARE is still actively looking for households to opt-in to the Teal Pumpkin Project by pledging to change the way trick-or-treating is organized. The organization has prepared instructions and shareable materials available here to get you started on actively becoming involved in the Teal Pumpkin Project; many families get started by perusing the organization’s official hashtag, #TealPumpkinProject.
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If you don’t have time to paint a pumpkin or purchase one, FARE has provided a few different free templates for more astute signage to display on your doorstep, porch, or lawn.
The best trick-or-treat ideas for those with food allergies:
Finding allergy-friendly candy can be tough in some areas, especially depending on which grocers or retailers are in your neighborhood. Some families opt for savory snacks instead, like popcorn or crackers, but clearly, those with wheat allergies (or other aversions to allergens) can still be impacted.
More often than not, your best option are non-edible items, which will be wrapped in plastic and stored away from other candy you may be handing out on Halloween. Some treats that families can turn to include:
- Gag toys: Things like plastic vampire fangs or spooky-themed Halloween costume add-ons.
- Glow in the dark: Either plastic wands or bracelets to wear while walking the neighborhood, or toys that can be used outside.
- Coloring: Including crayons and coloring books, including miniature pocket-sized options like these.
- Jewelry: Halloween-themed necklaces, rings, and bracelets for all.
- Active toys: Balls and other things like kinetic sand (which you can make at home!).
- Art supplies: Markers, pencils, stickers, craft paper, or any other art activity you can think of.
- Toys: Of course, who wouldn’t love miniature figurines? A genius move: Saving excess kids’ meals toys or promotions to hand out at Halloween.
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