According to the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) website, food allergies affect “up to 15 million people in the United States, including 1 in 13 children.” My son is one of those children. Eli’s peanut allergy affects us every day in dozens of ways. My husband and I try very hard to let our son have as normal of a life as we can, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Halloween is one of those times. My four-year-old son has never really been trick-or-treating.
On Halloween, we go to a party at his preschool where they give out gift bags filled with small toys, snacks, and nut-free candy. Then we go to a friend’s house where—as per our pre-determined plan—she puts some fruit gummies in Eli’s treat bag, and I take a picture to capture the occasion. That’s it. Then we go home and wait for other kids to trick-or-treat at our house. At four, my son knows the phrase “peanut allergy” and has a vague idea that eating peanuts will “make him sick.” He doesn’t understand that eating peanuts might make him stop breathing. He probably wouldn’t just tear into a candy bar without asking me, but I can’t be sure. So I don’t take risks—no tricks or treats for us.
This year is going to be different. This year, we’re actually going to do some real trick-or-treating by going to homes that are part of the Teal Pumpkin Project.
The Teal Pumpkin Project started a few years ago right here in Tennessee and has become a nationwide movement. Participants paint a pumpkin teal or hang a teal pumpkin sign at their house to let those with food allergies know that food allergy kids can get safe treats there. Why teal, you ask? Well, teal is the color that represents food allergy awareness.
While Eli and I are out searching for teal pumpkins, my husband will be manning the front door for ghosts and goblins. We have previously been the totally lame family that only gives out lollipops, but this year we’ll have non-candy items so that children with all kinds of food allergies can trick-or-treat safely at our house. You can choose to have regular candy for some kids and set aside another bowl for the Teal Pumpkin kids, or you can just have non-candy treats for everyone—which is what we’ll be doing.
Wondering what kinds of treats to get? Well, I picked up some little Halloween-themed notebooks on clearance last November, and I also ordered some stickers and pencils to give out. FARE suggests bubbles, bouncy balls, noisemakers, spider rings, bookmarks, coins, and glow sticks. Most of the stuff isn’t much more expensive than buying a big bag of candy, and you won’t have to worry about the leftovers staring you in the face while tempting you to eat them with all of their delicious empty calories.