Teal pumpkin campaign makes Halloween more inclusive for kids with food allergies

The traditional “trick-or-treat,” refrain follows up with “give me something good to eat,” but for parents of kids with food allergies, edible treats have long posed risks that extend beyond the usual safety concerns. Until recently, that often meant either opting out of goodie-gathering or sitting down for a labor-intensive, label-reading, treat-swapping session. But awareness is growing, and change is starting.

The Teal Pumpkin Project is a national campaign encouraging parents and neighbors to offer non-food treats for trick-or-treaters with food allergies, and to indicate their participation by placing a teal pumpkin near the door.

According to a USA Today article earlier this month titled “Teal is the New Orange for Halloween Pumpkins,” Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), a McLean, Va.-based organization, started the campaign last year. The article notes that “Teal was a natural choice, as it has been the color for food allergy awareness for almost two decades,” and quotes Veronica Lafemina, vice president of communciations, who says, "We're not looking to replace candy, but there is a way to be inclusive and ensure that all trick-or-treaters who come to your door can leave with a smile."

Some non-food treats mentioned in the article include bubbles, small racecars, crayons, stencils, stickers, press-on tattoos, and plastic rings. A dollar store is a great place to gather ideas and inexpensive items. Then get creative with packaging these little kid-friendly trinkets.

Food allergy has grown exponentially in recent years. The FARE website reports that “This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. That’s roughly two in every classroom,” and “The economic cost of children’s food allergies is nearly $25 billion per year.” FARE also says that a 2013 study released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that “food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011.” Researchers have no definitive answers for the huge spike.

FARE further notes that every 3 minutes food allergies send someone to the ER, accounting for about 200,000 visits each year, and they result in over 300,000 ambulatory care visits annually for kids under 18.

One of the most serious allergy risks is anaphylaxis, an extreme and potentially fatal allergic reaction involving multiple organs and possible respiratory failure. The most common cause of anaphylaxis in children is food allergies, particularly milk, wheat, eggs, nuts and spices.

So remove a little bit of fright from a fun night, by joining FARE in serving up some non-edible treats this year.