When fall rolls around, after I’ve put out my Halloween decorations, I often get asked about my teal pumpkin. The Teal Pumpkin Project® was started by FARE® (Food Allergy Research and Education) who was originally inspired by a community event started by FACET (Food Allergy Community of Eastern Tennessee), in an effort to raise awareness of food allergies and help all trick or treats to enjoy Halloween. The idea is simple, you put a teal pumpkin out on the stoop or porch, where it is visible from the street, and then families know that you have nonfood items available for trick or treaters with food allergies and intolerances and other issues that prohibit them from eating your candy treats.
What is FARE®?
FARE® was formed in 2012 when the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) and the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) merged. FARE’s mission is to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies, and to provide them hope through the promise of new treatments. Although their website mostly deals with food allergies they also have some information on celiac disease and other food intolerances. They created The Teal Pumpkin Project® as an international project to help children with food allergies, intolerances and other food issues to be able to fully participate in traditional Halloween trick or treating.
What can you do?
First of all, get a teal pumpkin. You can spray paint one or buy one already teal colored. The first year I bought a fake pumpkin from the local craft store and spray painted it teal so that I could use it every year. The second year I found one of those pumpkin buckets your find in the dollar store but in a teal color and some teal daisies from Michael’s to put inside of it. If you don’t want to put out an actual teal pumpkin, FARE® has an 8×11 poster you can print out and hang in your window to let people know you are a teal pumpkin house.
Then, and this is the most important part, when you buy your Halloween treats for this year, buy some nonfood treats to give out to trick or treaters. These treats don’t have to be large or elaborate. Something along the lines of small kids’ party favors are perfect.
Where to get the toys?
A great place to get these items online is Oriental Trading Company. They have all kinds of little toys for kids at great prices. If you wait until right before Halloween and don’t have time to order something online then I find that Target or Walmart have the best options. Not only do they have party favors in large quantities they also have other stuff, such as decorated pencils and erasers. You can also try the local party store. In a pinch, even the dollar store may have good options.
One of the great things about nonfood items is that if you have anything leftover just pack it all away in a sealed bag until next year. For me, that means no extra candy to tempt me to break my diet. Goodness knows I don’t need any extra temptation! This also allows you to take advantage of any sales you see on tiny bundles of items during the year. Oriental Trading Company runs clearance sales multiple times per year. If you sign up for their mailing list they will even notify you when they have them.
It’s important to remember, don’t mix the toys with your regular candy. Some children have very severe allergies (I’m thinking especially of peanut allergies). They can’t even take something from the same bowl that had peanut products in it without having a reaction. You may even want to print out an extra copy of the flyer FARE® has online to attach to the bowl with non-food items in it. This way it will be obvious to the children which bowl they can take from.
Spread the word
Once you decide to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project® you can add your address to the Teal Pumpkin Project® map. This isn’t a requirement but it helps families find houses with safe treats even easier. Finally, spread the word! Tell your friends and family what you’re doing. I post a picture of my pumpkins every year on Facebook. I include a link to The Teal Pumpkin Project® website in case they want to participate also. Remember, even if you don’t have a child with a food allergy or intolerance you will be doing a wonderful thing for someone else’s child. Children with food allergies and intolerances spend much of the year feeling different or left out because they can’t participate. By getting involved in The Teal Pumpkin Project®, you will make trick or treating safe and enjoyable for all children.