Halloween is only days away and is definitely a time of year to be excited – trick or treating, a chance to dress up in a costume and lots of Halloween goodies – I mean we’ve got fun-size chocolate bars, candy apples and even Starbucks is in the spirit this year with their limited-edition Zombie Frappuccino®. As someone who grew up in a household where no one had any food allergies, I never gave a thought to how Halloween festivities might be a little less festive for those who have to work around food allergies for their health and safety. As a Halloween-lover now grown up and practicing as a Registered Dietitian, I've gained some new perspectives. Focusing on digestive health in my private practice, I work with many people who have food allergies providing education and helping find substitutions or alternatives to manage safely and without compromising dietary variety or nutritional status. While Halloween comes but once a year, one could argue for example that children with a food allergy (or even multiple food allergies) could simply sit this one out. But does it have to be that way? Some would argue trick-or-treating is a childhood right of passage! Good news - no need to be spooked because the Teal Pumpkin Project® has changed the game!
I can’t recall how exactly, but I first heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project® in 2014 the year it all began. The idea was launched by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) with the goal of providing safety, inclusion and respect for those living with food allergies. The ‘ask’ was simple – paint a pumpkin teal - the colour chosen as it is the colour of food allergy awareness. By placing a teal pumpkin on your door step it would serve as a sign to trick-or-treaters that your home has some non-food treats available - erasers, playing cards, pencils, stickers, glow sticks etc. Some families who participated gave only non-food treats and others opted to have both options available so that traditional food treats would be there for most but the gouls and goblins living with food allergies could also partake.
Back in 2014, the first year I placed a teal pumpkin on my porch I must say I got a lot of compliments on how pretty it was, but only a few people recognized the cause. In the years since, this initiative has taken off as more and more people have become supporters. Food Allergy Canada has been hard at work partnering with FARE to create buzz about the Teal Pumpkin Project® - they've even created some awesome signs and posters you can download from their website to spread the word.
So what are my 4 Reasons why you should get in the Teal Pumpkin Project® Halloween spirit?
1. Halloween really is one of the few “old-school” traditions that still exists. I am an 80's kid and a lot of the things that were part of growing up for me, really aren't 'things' any more - but trick-or-treating is still alive and should be! However, when 2.5 million Canadians report they have one or more food allergies, that means a lot of children who can’t participate in Halloween to it’s fullest. By doing our part to make Halloween safe and inclusive, we help keep the magic of Halloween alive for generations to come.
2. Awareness – allergies are serious business. I think the Teal Pumpkin Project® has brought awareness that allergies go beyond just peanuts and the fact that many companies have ‘x-free’ options. Did you know for example there is a difference between a wheat allergy and celiac disease which is not an allergy but is instead an immune response? While dietary restrictions are similar for both conditions, the fine details actually differ. You can read more about this here in an excellent summary article on Food Allergy Canada’s website. And while on the topic of awareness, the Teal Pumpkin Project® is bringing awareness to that fact that resources like Food Allergy Canada even exist and to the amazing resources they have available. As a Registered Dietitian, I love knowing that accurate and credible information is getting into hands that need it so I love that this initiative is helping do just that.
3. While not the original intention of the Teal Pumpkin Project®, having non-food treats available works not just for those with food allergies but also provides trick-or-treat options for children who live with other health conditions that affect their food choices – a child with food texture aversion or who suffers from a condition which affects swallowing ability could also benefit from the option of a non-food treat!
4. Fun – who doesn’t love a good craft project? Michaels craft store started selling licensed teal coloured decorative pumpkins but you can also DIY with your choice of real or artificial decorative pumpkin and some acrylic teal paint (just like I did - with my 'Cayman Blue' paint hue).
Did I convince you of how great the Teal Pumpkin Project® is? I hope so.
If your teal pumpkin is sitting on the porch ready to go, and you’ve got your dish full of non-food treats all set – head over here on FARE’s website and add your address to the interactive map that shows where households are participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project® fun all across North America. Let's paint it teal together.
Questions about food allergies - visit Food Allergy Canada's website for tonnes of great information. Looking for a Registered Dietitian who might be able to help with you needs - be in touch!
Wishing a happy and safe Halloween to all!