Halloween is around the corner! When I was a kid, it was one of my favorite days of the year. I loved to dress up in fun costumes and go trick-or-treating with my friends. We would walk miles around the neighborhood and then come home to trade and devour our loot. Now, my son loves it the same way I do. Fortunately, my son, and most other children, can have anything they want from their candy stash at the end of the night, because they don’t have any food allergies. But for those who do, Halloween can be a lot scarier than it should be.
We can all do a little something to help make Halloween more inclusive for our friends with food allergies. Each October, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) encourages the public to join them in their Teal Pumpkin Project®. Participation is simple. Provide non-food treats for children who visit your house to trick-or-treat. Let them know you have safe treats for them by putting out a teal colored pumpkin. You can also list your house on their “Teal Pumpkin Project map” – and don’t forget to tell you friends!
Non-food treats are a good choice for children with food allergies because they can enjoy the celebration without worrying about accidentally eating their allergen. Here are some of the things that I’ve given away in previous years:
- Plastic spider rings
- Miniature yo-yos
- Plastic vampire teeth
- Mini containers of Play Doh
All of these items are inexpensive and easy to find. In fact, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) has partnered with Walmart (US) to help make it easy to find these treats. Look for FAACT’s teal ghost on the displays for non-food treats in your local store. According to Eleanor Garrow-Holding, president and CEO of FAACT, “I’m very excited to unite again with Walmart for the third year on this shared initiative of raising food allergy awareness nationwide, especially during the Halloween season when food allergy concerns are at one of its highest peaks”.
At our house, you can bet we will have our favorite peanut butter and chocolate treats. In case you wonder, we are big fans of Reese’s peanut butter cups and pumpkins. I always have two treat buckets – one for the candy and one for the non-food treats. I don’t ask the kids if they have food allergies when they come to my house. I just hold out the buckets and let them choose. In my experience, kids are as excited about the non-food treats as they are the candy – regardless of whether or not they have food allergies!
This year consider having non-food treats available at your house. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, food allergy prevalence varies by age, but is less than 10% (with less than 2% allergic to peanut), which means you don’t have to have a ton of non-food options to participate. Yet, a little goes a long way toward making Halloween fun and safe for everyone. Happy Halloween!