At the end of every October children don their most inventive disguises to roam city streets seeking out candy and goodies.
Most families enjoy this time dressing up and making door-to-door visits for a fun-filled evening. For others, food allergies cause challenges for trick-or-treaters because most candies may contain ingredients like soy, wheat, or peanuts.
Now, families can safely enjoy the festivities together with the Teal Pumpkin Project.
Since 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project has grown in its support of helping those kids to have fun on Halloween. People that display a teal pumpkin in front of their home are letting parents and kids know that they are handing out candy that is safe for those who suffer with allergies.
An awareness movement run by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee, or FACET, initially inspired the project. FARE, the Food Allergy and Research Education launched it as a national campaign in 2014 as a way to help more children to participate in Halloween activities safely.
Now meet Jett Harvel. He is a local 5-year-old that has never been trick-or-treating outside of visits to family homes. Stephanie Harvel is his mother and explains how her son suffers from a severe form of food intolerance. He is only able to ingest six different “safe” foods and a special formula. Food dangers are an everyday worry for her.
“Jett has gotten sick so many times trying to find something he can eat,” she said. “So going door to door to get candy is not only scary health wise for us, it’s terrifying for him. That’s why it’s awesome that the Teal Pumpkin Project takes off so that kids like him don’t miss out.”
Halloween has grown in popularity for all ages, but allergies in young children have grown in numbers as well. Now one in 13 children in the U.S. suffer from some sort of food sensitivity and someone visits the emergency room once every three minutes due to some sort of a food allergy.
The most common food allergies today are milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat; these are often referred to as “the big eight” and they now account for over 90 percent of the food allergies reported in the U.S. Just trace amounts of these allergens can cause a reaction that could end with a visit to the local emergency room.
Sherri Hoelscher of Sherris Rubber Duckies Preschool is a supporter of the teal pumpkins and plans to participate this year. “Stephanie and Jett are my friends,” she said. “It’s sad that they can’t take part in Halloween. I learned about the Teal Pumpkin Project because of her and I want to be able to help give other kids a chance to enjoy the holiday.”
Ideas for anyone interested in hosting a teal pumpkin on their porch could include non-food items such as glow sticks, bubbles, festive erasers or pencil toppers, stickers, bouncy balls, or other novelty toys. These are all low cost items that can be found at stores like Wal-Mart or the Dollar General and can be used for all trick-or-treaters.
Caution to participants who decide on objects like those listed, some of the non-food pieces may still contain allergens such as latex so it is advisable to look for latex-free items.
Hoelscher explained that she began with her own teal pumpkin last year, but there were no kids that came to her door who had allergies. “This year I will be participating with a pumpkin again” she stated. “I want to get the word out that there are people who want to let those children try to enjoy the evening with everyone else.”
An Allergen-Free Halloween Candy Quick List 2015 compiled by surefoodsliving.com lists some allergen-free candies that include Jolly Rancher Hard Candy, Mike and Ikes, Peeps, Dum Dums, Altoids, Tic-Tacs, Skittles, or Welches Fruit Snacks.
Just note that these are a few options of allergen-free candies and families including these items are asked to double check ingredients. These items are meant as a guide only.
For more information on the Teal Pumpkin Project and other allergy related issues please visit the FARE website at www.foodallergy.org.
Flyers and signs can be found there to share with trick-or-treaters that allergy-safe treats are available.