Halloween 101: What's The Deal With All The Teal?
You've seen it these past few weeks... In the midst of jack-o-lanterns, witches and goblins, a very non-traditional color is peeking out from the spookiest of store shelves. Yep, teal is taking over! If you're like most people, you're probably wondering if all the teal pumpkins you're seeing are just a new decorating trend, but the story behind it is so much bigger than that. It all started with an incredibly clever food allergy mom who simply wanted to make Halloween safer and more inclusive for her son and those just like him. The good news is YOU can start a new tradition at your house this year and take part in the teal pumpkin fun, too! Come on, keep reading...
So, what's the story?
The birth of the teal pumpkin came in 2012 when Becky Basalone, mom of two and director of a food allergy support group in Tennessee, came up with the idea of painting a pumpkin teal - the official color of food allergy awareness - and handing out non-food treats, like stickers and glow sticks, instead of candy to ensure that all trick-or-treaters felt safe and included on Halloween. From there the idea spread, and her teal pumpkins got the attention of one of the country's largest food allergy advocacy groups, Food Allergy Research Education (FARE). FARE loved the idea so much that they launched their own Teal Pumpkin Project® campaign in 2014, which ended up going viral in the press and on social media. Now tens of thousands of families throughout the United States, Canada and even Europe participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project® each year to show their support for trick-or-treating kiddos who have food allergies.
Why is this important for food allergy families?
I speak from experience when I say that Halloween is one of the scariest times of year for a food allergy parent (pun totally intended). I'll never forget the first Halloween after my oldest son Cade was diagnosed with his allergies. We went to a neighborhood party, and all I remember is Reeses peanut butter cups everywhere. Kids and adults alike were munching away, and there was no ghost or goblin scarier than the sight of peanut butter fingers touching every surface at that party while my little boy - just shy of two years-old and completely unaware - ran around playing.
We've gotten our trick-or-treating process down to a bit of a science (more on that in a few weeks), and fortunately, there are still many fruity candies that both of my boys can eat even though most of the chocolate is off-limits, but not all food allergies are created equal. Some kids are allergic to foods that contain soy, corn and articifcial dyes, for example, and there is very little that these kids are going to be able to enjoy on Halloween. Toys, on the other hand, are 100% safe for all children when trick-or-treating.
Should I give this a try at my house this year?
YES! It is so easy to take part in the teal pumpkin fun, and you have no idea how much your gesture means to kids like mine. If you aren't convinced yet, let me give you the biggest reason why you should consider this: Halloween is not just hard for food allergy kids. There are millions of children who have special dietary restrictions for a number of reasons like diabetes, ADHD, and weight control, just to name a few. This campaign is all about inclusivity because no child should have to miss out on the fun of Halloween because they have dietary restrictions.
Okay, I'm in - now what?
This is the easy part! Here's all you need to know to teal it up this Halloween:
When going out to buy Halloween candy for your trick-or-treaters this season, just purchase some non-food items, too. Any kind of little toy (flashlights, glow sticks, yo-yo's, puzzles, vampire teeth, spider rings, etc.), stickers, pencils, or any item that kids love to play with will work perfectly.
Visit FARE's website at www.foodallergy.org, go to the Education & Awareness tab, and click on Teal Pumpkin Project® link. Here you will find a plethora of resources to help you get started! Begin by printing a sign from FARE to hang on your door to indicate that your home is a safe haven for kids with food allergies and that you are offering non-food treats.
Add to your sign by either painting a pumpkin teal or purchasing one from a retailer (CVS and Michael's are just two examples of stores with a great selection of teal pumpkins for sale this year). While a sign alone will do the trick, a teal pumpkin on your doorstep definitely adds to the fun!
On Halloween night, just keep your candy and non-food items in separate bowls (to avoid cross-contamination) and have fun! You can either ask your trick-or-treaters if they have food allergies, or you can offer both candy and non-food treats to all of your visitors. The way you decide to navigate it is totally up to you.
If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to me. Or, you can peruse the additional resources below for more information. And stay tuned... on Friday I will give you some more insight on where you can find the perfect non-food treats for your teal endeavors this Halloween.
*For FARE's extensive resources on the Teal Pumpkin Project®, click here.
* For an interview with teal pumpkin creator, Becky Basalone, in Allergic Living magazine, click here.