The Teal Pumpkin Project

One of my favorite holidays is coming up: Halloween!  Not only are there SO many great sensory experiences to discover this time of year (from carving pumpkins to playing with goops and slimes), but it also means trick-or-treating! 

It is so much fun to dress up as a favorite character, cute animal, or scary creature.  Sometimes decorating and making the costume is half the fun for us adults, but I think most kids would agree that it’s all about the CANDY! 

Unfortunately, that is what makes this holiday stressful, or downright frustrating, for those with food allergies, sensitivities, and special diets.  Food allergies are a life-altering and potentially life-threatening disease, and a growing public health issue. In the U.S., one in 13 children has a food allergy – that’s roughly two in every classroom. For these children, even a tiny amount of their allergen has the potential to cause a severe reaction.

Virtually any food can cause a reaction. Many popular Halloween candies contain nuts, milk, egg, soy or wheat, which are some of the most common allergens in children and adults. Additionally, many miniature or fun-size versions of candy items contain different ingredients than their full-size counterparts and some miniature candy items may not have labels, so it is difficult for parents to determine whether these items are safe for their child with food allergies.

The Teal Pumpkin Project was launched as a national campaign by FARE in 2014, and encourages people to raise awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.  FARE works to reach families across the country and around the world with the Teal Pumpkin Project’s messages of awareness, inclusion and community. 

The steps to participate are:

  1. Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters.
  2. Place a teal pumpkin – the color of food allergy awareness –in front of your home to indicate you have non-food treats available.
  3. Display a free printable sign or premium poster from FARE to explain the meaning of your teal pumpkin.

Non-food treats provide a safe, fun alternative for children with food allergies and other conditions for whom candy may present a problem.  

Author: Krista Flack MS OTR/L; Pediatric Occupational Therapist

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