Celebrating the holidays is one of my most favorite things to do with my children, especially Halloween!! Each year the kids and I would make Halloween themed cupcakes, I would make queso, hot wings, and hot dogs for them to eat before we would hit the streets to Trick-Or-Treat. After finding out that our 12-year-old daughter Peyton had multiple food allergies that changed the way that we celebrated Halloween FOREVER. The Teal Pumpkin Project promotes safety, inclusion, and respect for the food allergy community.
As a mother of a child who has learned to live with multiple food allergies, I had to do a lot of research on what she could and could not eat. My husband and I had to educate ourselves on what “may contain” or “processed on equipment or in a facility” actually meant. It was hard starting out, but gradually got better, every day we are still educating ourselves on how to navigate the world of food allergies.
Halloween being one of the holiday’s that we love to go all out for with our children, was not the same after finding out Peyton was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, egg, and dairy. Every year we would walk the streets of our Southwest Austin neighborhood with family and friends to Trick-Or-Treat I would cautiously watch as Peyton would go door to door with her brothers and watch with bright eyes as candy was placed in her bag….only to end the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house where we would dump her bag out in the living room floor to check and see which candies she could keep and which she couldn’t. After thoroughly going through her bag and accessing it, 90-95% of her bag would contain candies that contained one of her allergens that she is allergic to, so we either gave the candy to Grandpa or her brothers would take it.
In the fall of 2012 Becky Basalone the director of a Tennessee Food Allergy support group had the idea to paint pumpkins teal (the color of food allergy awareness) and hand out non-food options for Halloween, this was the beginning of the Teal Pumpkin Project as we know it. By putting a “Teal Pumpkin” on your doorstep that alerts trick-or-treaters that your home is a “food allergy” safe house, and that you will provide non-food options such as glow sticks, stickers, small toys/trinkets for kids. The Teal Pumpkin Project promotes safety, inclusion, and respect for the food allergy community. Halloween can be a hard holiday for the food allergy community to navigate. One in 13 children in the U.S. has a food allergy, that is two children in every classroom living with food allergies. Not knowing what the candy may contain without seeing the bag that it came out of, or not knowing the cross contamination risks, if the candy may contain peanuts and tree nuts, by opting to also include the Teal Pumpkin Project and safe non-food items makes it so much easier for us parents to navigate Halloween with our kids. Remember that the Teal Pumpkin Project is not just for children who are living with food allergies, children who may a have food intolerance, Celiac Disease, or any child with a special diet.
Examples of Great Non-Food Options for Your Teal Pumpkin Project
- Bouncy Balls
- Mini Notebooks
- Glow Sticks
Because of initiatives like the Teal Pumpkin Project, this inspired my husband and I to start our own nonprofit in honor of our 12-year-old daughter Peyton. On November 12, 2019 we started Peyton’s Allergy Shield of Hope! We are a local nonprofit that is here to advocate and educate on behalf of children and adults living with food allergies.