In 2015, FARE, a food allergy awareness group, was on a mission to make Halloween inclusive for those with common food allergens. Over the past 6 years, FARE has developed the Teal Pumpkin Project, an initiative dedicated to providing toys instead of or in addition to candy. Community members signify their involvement in the project with a teal pumpkin on their doorstep and can list their addresses as food-allergy friendly on the Teal Pumpkin Project website. As food allergies in children are rapidly rising in the United States, many should consider the Teal Pumpkin Project as a part of their Halloween traditions.
Meredith Odegard, a sophomore with a severe food allergy, hasn’t always had the best experience with Halloween candy. “That [Halloween] was actually how I found out I had a food allergy. I was eating candy with my allergen and that made my throat close up,” she said.
Odegard often finds she can’t eat most candy she gets, such as snickers, M&Ms, Kit Kats, and other Hershey products. “Usually when I do trick-or-treat, over half of my candy goes to my parents or my brother because I can’t eat it,” she explains.
Odegard had never heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project before, but she’s interested in seeing people participating in her neighborhood. She comments, “It’s a subtle thing … It’s not banning certain foods or ruining other peoples’ experiences, it’s just helping people who don’t always have the best experience.”
However, even with the Teal Pumpkin project, she still believes candy should still be an option. “There are people with allergies who enjoy candy. I’m a candy fan … but I think that would take away from the traditional Halloween experience if you got rid of all the candy,” Odegard said.
In the past, people have left out stickers, tattoos, playdough, and other small, non-costly trinkets. It’s easy for most families to afford these items, especially when the demand is mostly for candy.
For people without food allergies, a concern may be that the Teal Pumpkin Project will take away from a “traditional” Halloween. Sophomore Ellee St. Pierre explains, “I don’t think it takes away from a traditional Halloween, it’ll allow more people to experience it.” She says that she’d be willing to leave some toys out on her doorstep this year, “A toy everyone would love is probably play doh.”
Viviana Danielsen, a sophomore, has been vegan for about two years. Even though she doesn’t have any allergies, the Teal Pumpkin Project gives her an opportunity to participate in Halloween festivities. “I pretty much can’t eat chocolate or gelatin, so like gummy bears and Milky Ways,” she said.
While the Teal Pumpkin initiative is directed at people with food allergies, it can affect other groups, like vegans, people with braces, or people who prefer toys to candy.
This spooky season, consider leaving out some small trinkets and a teal pumpkin for your neighbors.