West Seattle Halloween: Teal Pumpkin Project carves out an inclusive niche for trick-or-treaters

(Photo by Jason Enevoldsen)

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Think about a recent time you were excluded from something:

Your friends spent the evening out without you; you didn’t have time to watch that movie everyone said was so good; or, you weren’t invited to an important meeting, even though your coworker at the same level was. You know that feeling? It isn’t fun, but as adults we’re able to deal with it appropriately most of the time. Celebrating Halloween with food allergies means being left out over and over again, which is particularly difficult for children.

Enter the Teal Pumpkin Project! It’s simple:

1. (optional) Sign up at http://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project.
2. Display a teal pumpkin at your door, or a picture of one, to show that you’re participating.
3. Give trick-or-treaters a non-food treat, either instead of candy or in addition to candy.

The Teal Pumpkin Project is not an attempt to eliminate candy from Halloween. The Teal Pumpkin Project was started to promote the inclusion and safety of, and respect for, people with food allergies. As a happy circumstance, this also promotes the inclusion and safety of, and respect for, people who also cannot have candy for reasons besides food allergies.

I don’t have food allergies, why would I participate?

Empathy and inclusion.

Halloween today is one of many social occasions with an emphasis on food. For someone like me, with food allergies, these occasions mean being excluded or partly excluded. That’s not fun. It’s not fun that it is absolutely necessary that I use my willpower to resist eating a delicious-looking cookie that might have nuts, or a caramel candy bar (my favorite) because the brand has mixed peanuts into the caramel. I’m an adult though: I have both the willpower to resist the candy bar and the emotional resiliency to cope with the exclusion. Children are still learning these things.

There are already 18 households signed up on the West Seattle peninsula, including White Center. You can find a map of some of them on the Teal Pumpkin Project website.

I know there are more planning to participate as well.

Do kids really like non-food treats?

Yes. Not every kid likes every treat, and that’s true for candy too, but non-food treats can be even more fun, and are less likely to be subject to the “parent tax” (you know the one: the portion of kids’ candy eaten by the parents after bedtime?). I’m sure you can get even more creative, but stickers and glowsticks are usually a hit. I’ll be making slime. Are you down to the wire on time? A dollar store is going to have a variety of things that might work for you.

If I’m handing out candy and non-food treats, how do I determine which treat to give to each trick-or-treater?

I advocate giving out both to each kid, but the Food Allergy Research and Education organization recommends that “you can either ask trick-or-treaters if they have any food allergies, or give every visitor a choice of which treat they’d like: candy or a non-food item.” Keep your candy and non-food treats in separate bowls.

I/My Child Has Food Allergies

Please stay safe on Halloween. Bring your epinephrine and allergy medications while you trick-or-treat and to Halloween parties. Wait until you get home to eat any treats. Check every label and ingredients – “fun-size” candies can have different ingredients than full-size. If you can’t find the ingredients, swap it for something safe. Bring extra safe treats along with you to parties.

Have a Happy Halloween!


FARE: Food Allergy Research and Education
FAACT: Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team
WA-FEAST: Washington Food Allergy, Eczema, and Asthma Support Team—this is our local active support group.
Sea-FAC: Seattle Food Allergy Consortium—local research being done into causes and cures for food allergies.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re adding the Teal Pumpkin Project map to the WSB West Seattle Halloween Guide, so you can find it again easily.

11 Replies to "West Seattle Halloween: Teal Pumpkin Project carves out an inclusive niche for trick-or-treaters"

  • NativeNancy October 28, 2015 (10:59 pm)

    What a nice idea! Thanks for sharing.

  • Halloweenprincess October 29, 2015 (9:14 am)

    Awesome! I love this idea. We will be out of the house at parties this year, but I hope it continues to grow. It is so important for those kiddos out there who can’t have fun candy!

  • Toni Reineke October 29, 2015 (9:48 am)

    Just added my house. Thank you once again, Alice!

    P.S. to other: the process is easy. Go for it!

  • Craig October 29, 2015 (11:05 am)

    Good stuff. Well written summary too, with a focus on it’s not an attempt to take candy/food from holidays, just a way for those kids that can’t, to participate. My kid has an allergic reaction to peanuts (note to those that haven’t gotten the story on stuff like this – it can be a quick death reaction, not just hives) and he loves getting stickers, temp tattoos, books, etc on Halloween! He can eat Twizzlers and other candy not made in the same facility as nuts, or containing nuts, so we do a little bit of both non food and food treating. Thanks from a parent to all those that take the time to include all kids!

  • Lina October 29, 2015 (12:42 pm)

    This is a great idea! With a young child, four years old, Halloween is a big deal for him. He does not have any food allergies but we have been trying to lessen the amount of candy he ends up eating.
    Last year, a family friend shared something they have been doing in their home and we have adopted at our home now too. On Halloween, we write a letter together to the “Switch Witch” asking for a special treat/present in exchange for giving the Switch Witch his candy (or most of it, we have him keep a few favorite items). That night, the Switch Witch comes, takes the candy and leaves the special requested item, this year I think it might be a rubber snake that he has been wanting from the toy store. Our son LOVES this and it has been an awesome way to get candy out of the house after the holiday (without my husband and I being ‘forced’ to eat it.

  • Jenny October 29, 2015 (3:15 pm)

    What a wonderful way to make the night special for every trick or treater! And as a crafty person myself, it would be so much more fun for me to hand out slime than candy I can’t make.

  • AJ October 29, 2015 (5:04 pm)

    This is a nice idea. I saw a display with an assortment of bags of non-candy “treats” in the Halloween section at Target yesterday.

  • Alice October 29, 2015 (11:07 pm)

    Wow. Wow. Thank you all for your support. I had much trepidation as I was preparing to read the comments on this article: too many public food-allergy-related articles have comment threads full of mean-minded and thoughtless replies that feel like personal attacks and threats to my safety, even when directed at others. I should have known that West Seattlites on WSB wouldn’t do that, especially to a personalized story. Thank you.

  • Linds October 30, 2015 (2:35 am)

    Thank you so much for sharing this! We’ve added our house to the map. As a parent of a very young kiddo allergic to nuts, Halloween is one of the most stressful holidays of the year.
    I absolutely love living in West Seattle, and feel safer knowing that there is a strong community of people around us that care enough to help keep him safe AND feel included.

  • john October 30, 2015 (11:12 am)

    Reading this piece and going to the Allergy Relief site informed us that the epi-pens (Auvi-Q ) have just been recalled.

  • Julia October 30, 2015 (10:58 pm)

    Trick-or-treating isn’t fun for kids with diabetes, either. This is a good idea. (Beware, though, most kids want candy and will not be pleased to get a sticker or a pencil.)

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