By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog
It’s Halloween! Time for candy, chocolate, costumes, cultural celebrations … and allergic reactions? I’m a little late writing about the Teal Pumpkin Project this year, but you can still participate! Even if you can’t, having a little empathy tonight will go a long way with your neighbors.
As adults, we are almost always able to deal appropriately with the feeling of being left out. Good for us. 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://tealpumpkinproject.org
2. Display a teal pumpkin at your door, or a picture of one, to show that you’re participating. Locally, Target is selling Teal Pumpkin Project merchandise that you can use to display your participation.
3. Give trick-or-treaters a non-food treat either instead of candy or in addition to candy. Try to keep the candy in a separate bowl from the non-candy.
The Teal Pumpkin Project is not an attempt to eliminate candy from Halloween. The Teal Pumpkin Project was started to promote the inclusion, safety and respect for people with food allergies. As a happy circumstance, this also promotes the inclusion, safety and respect for people who also cannot have candy for reasons besides food allergies such as diabetes, family rules, simple preference, etc.
I don’t have food allergies, why would I participate?
Empathy and inclusion.
Most social occasions in the United States have an emphasis on food. This is extremely stressful if you have food allergies, like me, and even more stressful if your children have food allergies. It takes a lot of willpower not to eat that tempting chocolate bar—even though I know it might have nuts. I just really wish I could have one too. Children are still learning this skill and need more supervision.
There are already over 60 households signed up on the West Seattle peninsula, including White Center. These houses will be passing out tattoos, stickers, toys, making slime, making glow worms, critters, slap bracelets, bubbles, pencils, fangs, blind bags, squeeze balls, glow sticks and more. You can find a map or list 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. Toothbrushes, probably not. I’ll be making slime, but I’m intense about Halloween. Are you down to the wire on time? A dollar store is going to have a variety of things that will work.
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.”
There are answers to more of your questions on the Teal Pumpkin Project FAQ. I’m happy to answer your questions tonight at @AlicesAstroInfo on Twitter, in between making slime with my own trick-or-treaters.
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.
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.