Come October (or even as early as August… eye roll), businesses and homes across the country begin to transform into spooky, monster-ridden spectacles. Black cats, purple-clothed witches, and snarling green monsters cover windows, walls and front yards… not to mention the quintessential orange pumpkins.
While my family has their fair share of traditional Halloween décor, I have also had a teal pumpkin on my porch at Halloween for the past few years. While it may not seem that out of place for someone like me with an unnatural obsession for all things turquoise, it is not a traditional Halloween color and thus not a normal sight.
Some of you may have noticed the rise in teal pumpkins on doorsteps, retail locations and online. Like me, you may have initially thought that this phenomenon must be related to marketing and color trends as in fashion and home décor.
However, the meaning behind these pumpkins is not at all trendy.
In fact, it could be a matter of life or death.
Halloween’s Life-Threatening Dilemma
Halloween has become as big a part of childhood as celebrating birthdays. Children plan their costumes months in advance, communities throw huge festivals, and businesses everywhere jump on the bandwagon providing us with a plethora of goodies to purchase.
And what has become just as synonymous with Halloween as ghouls and goblins?
Candy corn, chocolate, gummies, licorice… no candy shall be left behind. Even Easter’s famous Peeps-brand marshmallows reappear in October in Halloween shapes. While dressing up in a costume is lots of fun, my kids are in it for the candy.
From the very first time a neighbor dropped a small candy into my child’s trick-or-treat bucket, they were hooked. As kids get older, they plan their trick-or-treat routes around getting the most bang for their buck. As a kid, who wasn’t aware of the house with the best candy?
All of this seems like an innocent, time-honored childhood tradition, so what could be so scary about it.
As parents we take all the necessary precautions to keep our kids safe: flash lights, glow sticks, talks of stranger-danger, checking each piece of candy to ensure it isn’t poisoned. However, some families can’t even participate in these simple traditions no matter what safeguards parents put in place.
Who is it that cannot partake in the joys of the season for fear of their lives?
Children with food allergies and some disabilities.
Halloween for Children with Food Allergies
While your kids are being rewarded for the hard work of picking out a costume and trekking around the neighborhood in the dark, kids with food allergies are left out. Many cannot partake in candy do to nut, gluten, dairy or other allergies. Other children with illnesses and disabilities that require strict diets or feeding tube cannot consume treats at all.
Some of you may be thinking, why can’t the parents just monitor which candy their children take stay home, or perhaps just check the labels? First of all, many snack-size Halloween treats don’t have nutrition labels, and some don’t even have the same ingredients as their full-size counterparts. Moreover, some children cannot partake in any candy as I mentioned.
Should these children be prohibited from participating in the holiday with all their friends? Is it fair that the parents of these children must work themselves sick trying to keep their children safe?
Halloween for the Special-Need Parents
Being the parent of a child with a food allergy or disability is already hard work. You can’t imagine how difficult it is physically and mentally to constantly monitor your children’s food. These parents are on high alert at parties, events, restaurants, schools and even in their own home just to keep their kids safe… to keep them alive.
Yes, these parents can bring their own treats for their kids, so they can still trick-or-treat with friends. Yes, they can stand over their children like a hawk to ensure they don’t inadvertently reach their hand into a dish with their child’s allergen. And they do.
But what if, just for one day, the community came together to give these parents a break. Let’s let them take a breath and offer an alternative. Let’s allow their kids to be included in the fun and give the parents a chance to enjoy the holiday rather than dread it.
So What is with the Teal Pumpkins?
On Halloween in 2014, Becky Basalone painted a pumpkin teal (the color for food-allergy awareness) and began handing out alternative, “safe” treats. As a mother of a child with life-threatening food allergies, she wanted her children and others like them in her community to have a fun, but safe holiday. The movement grew within her small community and then launched into the nationwide campaign, Teal Pumpkin Project® in 2014.
The goal of the campaign is simple: to raise awareness of food allergies and promote the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.
Now teal pumpkins are popping up all over the world and it is easier than ever to join the campaign. You simply place a teal pumpkin and/or Teal Pumpkin Project sign on your front porch. Then you offer non-candy treats to the children who request it.
Easy peasy, right?
How Can You Support a More Inclusive Holiday
Joining in The Teal Pumpkin Project is easy! You can find teal pumpkins at many local and online retailers. We found ours at Walmart for less than a dollar.
Alternatively, you can make a project of it with your kids and paint your pumpkins or jack-o-lantern’s teal.
Simpler yet, just go to The Teal Pumpkin Project Free Resources Page and print out a sign to put on your porch.
Wait! Does this mean I can’t hand out candy? No, you can!
You can decide whether you hand out only non-food treats or a combination of both. Just be sure to keep your candy in a separate bowl than the candy.
Looking for ideas for non-food treats? Check out the list of options provided by FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education: Ideas for Non-Food Treats.
In addition to participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project, you can help make the holiday more inclusive by being aware of other situations that prevent children and families from enjoying the holiday and making simple accommodations…
- See a child with a walker or wheelchair? Meet them at the bottom step so the parents don’t have to carry them up or risk their safety climbing stairs.
- Be aware that children may be non-verbal, hearing-impaired or just nervous. Don’t be offended or disrespectful to children who don’t say, “please” or “thank you.” It is possible that they can’t.
- Make a child with sensory issues feel welcome by turning on your porch light and quieting scary sounds if they seem nervous.
- Don’t judge a child by their Halloween costume or lack thereof. Some children have heightened sensitivities to fabrics, masks and the like. They may just want to be apart of the activities and not dress up.
Check out these Frequently Asked Questions about the Teal Pumpkin Project and its role in a more inclusive Halloween.
Why Support The Teal Pumpkin Project?
All children and families have the right to enjoy in the delights of the season. No child should be left out because of a condition that is out of their control.
We often take for granted how easy our lives can be. Remember to show gratitude for the blessings in your life, especially the simple ones that we may overlook. Be understanding and compassionate towards families with disabilities, hardships and special-needs. Their lives are hard enough without your criticism or judgement.
Not every house has to participate in The Teal Pumpkin Project to make the holiday more enjoyable for these children. However, the more of us who help, the more joy and inclusion we bring into our communities.
Don’t you want to do your part to bring more happiness and kindness into the world?
Will you be joining The Teal Pumpkin Project this year?
Add your house to The Teal Pumpkin Project Map to indicate that you have alternative treats available!
Share this post to help us bring awareness to the campaign and help make this holiday a joy for ALL children.
Visit the FARE Website for more ways you can help Spread the Word.