For many kids, Halloween ranks right up there with Christmas as one of the best days of the year. (Really, what can be better than going door-to-door and loading up on free candy?)
For other kids, however, Halloween is just another day that reinforces their differences, potentially shutting them out from most of the festive activities. Indeed, for kids who have food allergies, sensitivities or other special diets, avoiding all the typical Halloween fare can turn the holiday into a very real nightmare.
Jennifer Kurko, a mom of two children with food allergies, has experienced this first-hand. “We really struggled with letting them even participate [in trick-or-treating], being that my oldest is allergic to dairy, eggs, tree nuts and peanuts, among other things,” she says. “We picked costumes with gloves to limit her contact with allergens and made strict rules about not eating anything, and we carried a few safe options with us so she could eat something. But as she has gotten older, it is much harder to help her manage the disappointment of not being able to really participate.”
But there is some hope: Since 2014, the Food Allergy Research and Education organization (FARE) has actively working to level the trick-or-treating field for the nearly one-in-13 children who suffer from food allergies. Through the Teal Pumpkin Project, FARE seeks to create an all-inclusive Halloween experience by raising awareness and encouraging families to give away non-food treats to trick-or-treaters.
According to the FARE website, the Teal Pumpkin Project—which was inspired by a local awareness activity run by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee—“promotes safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies.” Additionally, it “offers an alternative for kids with food allergies, as well as other children for whom candy is not an option, and keeps Halloween a fun, positive experience for all!”
In just its second year of existence, the Teal Pumpkin Project is already impacting tens of thousands of children in communities all over the country—including Kurko’s two daughters.
“Last year was the first year we saw a teal pumpkin,” says Kurko. “My girls’ reactions were amazing! They jumped up and down and hugged the woman who had the teal pumpkin; they were so happy. Honestly, it was their first real treat.”
If you’re interested in supporting this incredible initiative, FARE suggests several ways to get involved. You can:
- Host a Teal Pumpkin Project™ inspired fundraising event to support FARE
- Order an official Teal Pumpkin Project™ Trick-Or-Treat Goodie Bag that includes a fun selection of non-food treats, a pumpkin stencil, support poster, cool trick-or-treat bag, and more.
- Make a donation and receive a free Teal Pumpkin Project™ window cling (while supplies last)
- Download free materials and use the hashtag #tealpumpkinproject to help us spread the word.
And, of course, you can paint a pumpkin teal and place it on your front porch (while providing non-food treats for trick-or-treaters) to show the world that you’re committed to making a safer, happier Halloween for all kids.