The Teal Pumpkin Project-Keeping it safe on Halloween

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays but this holiday requires proper planning as a parent of a child living with food allergies.  Today, 1 in 13 kids- about 2 in every school classroom is living with food allergies. Even more reason to plan ahead and join in on the Halloween fun safely!

Allergens: There are many common allergens found in popular Halloween candy; the most obvious being peanut and tree nuts but there are also allergens such as milk, eggs, sesame and soy. Can you believe there is sesame seed oil in the popular candy corns? It would have never been on my radar to check ingredients until I became an allergy mom.

Our daughter Aleena has multiple food allergies. As we learned more about her allergies over the years, each Halloween took on a different shape.

Halloween is a BIG holiday in our house. Most people are scared of ghouls and goblins lurking on every corner, however, for a child who has life threatening food allergies, walking up to a stranger’s door to accept food is counterintuitive to everything a food allergy child has been taught. This holiday can feel fearful for many families but it doesn’t have to with some thought and planning before the big day.

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The girls are excited about their teal pumpkins.

During the day: In our home, it’s an all day event starting with a Halloween parade and mini festival at my daughter’s school. Luckily, Aleena’s school is very accommodating with her allergies. There is some food at the festival but we work together to make sure events are nut and sesame free.

After school, we come home to rest and gobble down dinner. Usually I serve a simple fall themed meal, prepared ahead of time . In the past it’s been some variation of squash soup or this carrot sweet potato soup. My friend joins us with her two daughters of similar ages along with my sister and her family.

There are a few popular streets in Berkeley where many people go to trick or treat. It’s very festive however, these particular neighborhoods are usually crowded. There are lines to wait for candy!

Keeping It Safe: In our household, we stay in our neighborhood. It’s quieter but we also like to support our neighbors who decorate their homes and make it festive for our children. It’s also a lot safer and easier to manage the experience with food allergies.

We have a rule with our friends that our kids can eat a few pieces of ( nut free/sesame free) candy. My eldest daughter doesn’t have any food allergies. My daughter, Aleena only can eat the candy we bring for her. We pack a goodie bag full of non-food items and safe candies for her in case we don’t have any safe options.

My husband always walks up to the door with Aleena and our group of friends. He makes sure he inspects all candy being passed out before plopping it into her basket, which can be a tricky thing to do so quickly! For example, if a house only has peanut butter cups, we politely say no thank you. We offer Aleena one of the safe treats from her goodie bag which she gets to choose herself.

Aleena’s friends have adopted the same rule even though we’ve told them it’s ok to receive candy that isn’t safe for Aleena but safe for them. We just ask that they eat it when they get back to their house. They don’t want her to feel excluded so we all follow the same path together.

We try to make it fun by focusing on the special treats in her bag. Usually her friends end up liking our bag better than the treats that are offered from our neighbors! This always makes Aleena happy.

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Wrapping it up or in this case unwrapping it up: When we come home, the girls like to sort through their candy. We used to let them sort through it together but as Aleena’s list of allergies grew, it became more challenging. We always carry wipes with us but make sure we wash hands when first coming home. We let the older girls go up to their room and spread the candies out on a mat so that they can sort through some of them together.

We sort through Aleena’s bag of candy and replace the candies with our safe options from the goodie bag. She gets to keep the non-food items which is why having non-food treats are so special. And why I LOVE the mission behind the Teal Pumpkin Project.

FARE & The Teal Pumpkin Project: The Food Allergy Research and Education group (FARE) created the Teal Pumpkin Project in 2014 as a way to bring about awareness of food allergies and as a way to promote a more inclusive trick or treating experience. Placing a teal pumpkin on your doorstep is a way of alerting trick or treaters that you have alternative goodies including non-food options such as stickers and toys.

Some people think placing a teal pumpkin outside means no candy. Not at all! It just means that you can keep the experience safe by placing your food treats and non-food treats in a separate bowl so that every child can participate. Who doesn’t love that?

Honestly, its not about the candy. It’s really about the experience and joy of celebrating Halloween together with family and friends.

Here’s to a safe and happy Halloween 💙

For more teal love: use the hashtag #tealpumpkinspotting on Instagram from now until Halloween. Show us your teal pumpkins & what goodies you’ll be handing out!

 Resources :

  • You can purchase a teal pumpkin at your local Target or Michaels’ store, online or paint your own with a real pumpkin.  The blog, My Fix it up Life has a fun post.
  • For information on FARE’S teal pumpkin project, click here.
  • For non-food item treats and ideas, click here. 
  • For safe candy options, check out this post by Allergy Awesomeness 
  • Always carry your child’s meds and EPI pens with you while trick or treating.
  • Please read labels and check each ingredient every time- what may be safe for one person may not be safe for another.

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