Halloween and the Teal Pumpkin Project

Back in 2012, Becky Basalone was a Tennessee mother of 2 and the leader of an allergy support group.  She decided that she was going to paint a pumpkin teal (the color of food allergy awareness) to put on her porch for Halloween to indicate that she would have non-food items available for trick or treaters with food allergies.  Little did she know that her simple act would be adopted by FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) and it has spread through social media and mainstream media like wildfire this year not only in the USA but also across Canada and Britain.

The premise is really simple which makes it easy to adopt.  Initially, it was expected that The Teal Pumpkin Project would be adopted by food allergic parents but it’s been widely embraced by the non-food allergic as well.  And while the project has brought out the usual gaggle who think that food allergies are fallacy, the widespread support continues to grow daily as we approach Halloween.

My food allergic daughter is now too old to be trick or treating but when she did, we allowed to her to collect all of the treats in her bag, although she would often say no thank if you if it was an obvious unsafe item like a Reese peanut butter cup.  Upon her return home, she wasn’t allowed to touch anything until her dad or I went through the candy.   We removed all allergen products, products not wrapped (which were discarded) or those with no ingredients/impossible to read ingredients.  When she was little, she’d then get all of the safe treats we’d bought to give out and the kids coming to the door would get the unsafe treats.   The last ones arriving before the lights went out got whatever was left in the bowl – making us quite popular!

As she got older and was going out with a group of friends, all of the kids would come back to our house where we’d repeat the same inspection process but she would give the unsafe treats to her friends – making her quite popular!  As she got even older and wiser, she realized that instead of giving to friends, she could trade them unsafe treats for the safe treats they had in their bags and boy, was she happy!

When talking to my food allergic daughter about this project, she was amazed that it was growing so large.  However, she did note that if she was trick or treating with her friends and they all got food goodies and she got a non-food treat, she’d feel let down.  Therefore, as part of doing our part of The Teal Pumpkin Project, I’ve made sure to get a variety of candy that will meet the needs of all of the top 11 food allergens.  However, there are still many sensitivities out there such as to food dye which seems to be in all gummies so we’ll also be providing non-food treats as well. We’ll also put up The Teal Pumpkin Project poster and ask for trick or treaters to check in with us on food allergies.

Here are some tips and tricks to implementing your own Teal Pumpkin Project:

  1. Download the FARE Teal Pumpkin Project Poster for your door or window:  http://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project
  2. Print out the FARE flyers to give to schools, friends and family to encourage them to join
  3. Wash and dry your pumpkin before painting it teal so that the paint sticks.  Water based paint may not stay on the pumpkin so a spray paint may work better
  4. Buy a variety of treats that will meet many different food allergens and watch out for gluten too
  5. When buying your non-food treats, try to avoid stickers and tattoos for Halloween – the next day is November 1 and all of the fun to wearing Halloween stickers and tattoos is BEFORE Halloween
  6. Be Proactive:  Be willing to explain the project and maybe even hand out flyers to parents accompanying the trick or treaters to spread the word for Halloween 2015
  7. Have fun!!!!

And a final tip for inspecting your own little loved one’s treats for allergens:  Don’t assume that candies that have been safe before are still safe.  Not only do manufacturers change their processes, often the Halloween treat sizes are run in different plants than the full sized candies and may be high-risk.  Read all ingredient labels and if you can’t read – discard.

Be safe!