In the USA, there’s a new decoration outside houses for Halloween: bright teal-blue pumpkins.
The Teal Pumpkin Project was started three years ago by the mother of a two year old with extreme food allergies in Tennessee and has become a nationwide project supported by the US Food Allergy Research and Education organization. It’s a great initiative for kids with food allergies who can have a tough time at Halloween.
Food allergies amongst children are really common, roughly 1 in 3 kids have allergies, with milk, eggs, nuts, sesame and soy being the most common triggers. Allergies can be life-threatening and it can be difficult for parents to be constantly vigilant. About 1% of the US population has celiac disease too, and so have to avoid gluten, and can become seriously ill if they eat bread, pasta, cakes etc. Also did you know that Haribo and similar sweets are made with pork gelatine? These and lots of other chewy sweets are off limits for vegetarian kids and for Jewish and Muslim kids too. Go ahead and Google what goes into gelatine and they might be off limits for you too.
Halloween is such a big thing in the USA, not joining in running from house to house filling your bag with candy is like being told you can’t have a Christmas stocking. Kids with food allergies can get left out of the fun, as most candy is likely to be unsuitable. For parents of children with food allergies, it’s stressful, worrying as Halloween comes with extra, very real fear along with the spookiness.
The starting point of the Teal Pumpkin Project was that every child should be able to experience the joy and tradition of trick-or-treating on Halloween and come home with a bagful of things they can enjoy. It just takes one simple act: offering non-food treats, such as glow sticks, stickers, crayons, erasers, bracelets and small toys as an alternative to candy. It also promotes awareness, compassion and inclusion as people not affected get to understand how some children have to leave in fear of certain foods.
Last year, households from all 50 states and 14 countries participated and it’s becoming a worldwide movement to create a safer, happier Halloween for all trick-or-treaters.
Even if you aren’t responsible for children with allergies, it’s a good thing to be aware of and tell your kids about. Kids will enjoy the novelty of painting a pumpkin blue. You can encourage them to help you fill a bag of non-edible things ready to give out and make a sign to show you are joining in. You could get them to make pom-poms, origami animals, clay figures, masks and include little toys and things they don’t use or play with anymore. It’s a great way to get children thinking about sharing and being generous rather than just filling their loot bags and themselves with sweets and junk food at Halloween.
To find out more look at the website: www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project. Find tealpumpkinproject on Facebook and use #tealpumpkinproject.
You can download flyers and get official merchandise from the website, but the simple blue pumpkin outside is the important thing.
So this year make teal the new orange and help all kids enjoy Halloween!