One in 13 kids have a food allergy and for many of them and their parents, what is a fun candy fest for most kids becomes a nightmare of fears about sometimes life-threatening allergic reactions.
In response to this situation and because her son had severe allergies, one mom decided to do something about it. Here's her story from USA TODAY:
Back in 2012, a Tennessee mom named Becky Basalone had an idea: What if Halloween could be made a little less tricky for kids with food allergies?
Her idea became what is now the Teal Pumpkin Project, a nationwide effort to encourage families — whether their own kids have food restrictions or not — to offer up some non-food treats on Oct. 31. Participation is simple: You just put a teal-colored pumpkin or sign outside your door and offer trick-or-treaters glow sticks, spider rings, Halloween stickers or other non-food goodies, along with or instead of the traditional candies.
Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), a non-profit advocacy group, first promoted the idea nationwide in 2014, with the help of a viral Facebook post, says Nancy Gregory, senior director of communications. In 2015, about 1 million people visited the group’s website to get information, and about 10,000 of them — probably a fraction of participants — put their homes on an interactive map showing teal pumpkin sites, she says.
This year, the group is thinking bigger, Gregory says: “Our goal is to have a home on every block in America with a teal pumpkin. We hope that it becomes a new Halloween tradition.”
How to participate
- Get a teal pumpkin or decorate your own. CVS, Michael's, Party City and the Oriental Trading Company are all corporate co-sponsors of the project.
- Print flyers, signs, stickers and handouts to let people know about the event and to share what you are doing. Below are pictures of the materials available from the Teal Pumpkin website. CLICK Here to download them.
- Collect non-food items to give away. All kinds of small toys rings of various kinds (spider, jewels, etc.), small notebooks, erasers, little cards, fancy pens or pencils, party favors, shells, pretty rocks--check out your local Dollar Stores and 99 cent stores for lots of ideas.
Trunk or Treat or Fall Festivals
Here are some ideas to help your church take part in the Teal Pumpkin Project as part of your Trunk or Treat or Fall Festivals. In addition to what you normally do, here are ways to minister to kids with allergies (and the parents who have to work so hard to deal with them):
- Advertise that your event is part of the Teal Pumpkin Project, explain it, link to it on your website and social media.
- Have fun decorating either a special trunk or booth with the teal pumpkins and all things teal. This is a happy, upbeat alternative to ghosts and goblins (and who doesn't love to decorate with teal?)
- Scatter non-candy Teal Pumpkin treats around the various trunks and booths that also primarily give out candy. You don't want to make the little kids who have allergies only have one booth or trunk to go to.
- Be sure you have enough non-candy treats! Parents who don't want their kids ingesting huge amounts of sugar and kids who prefer toys will also like the non-food treats as much as those who need them.
Beyond the candy limitations
Not only is this a great way to serve families with allergies, but it can be a learning project for your children and the children of your church. Ideas include:
- They can research allergies and talk to friends who have them.
- If they write for a school newspaper they could do a story on what it's like to have severe allergies, what it means to be excluded from celebrations like Halloween, and what it means to them when someone cares enough to do something special for them.
- If they don't write about this, have them ask friends these questions or perhaps do it as an interview in Sunday School class.
- Remind them of how Jesus constantly sought out those who were part of "the least of these." Remind them of how he cared for children and those that society shunned such as lepers. Caring for people who need extra care is something that is very pleasing to our Lord and reminding kids of this can help redeem a holiday from the fun, but not totally helpful candy focus.