Trick-or-treating on Halloween is a beloved tradition for kids across the country, but for children with food allergies, going door-to-door asking for candy is simply not an option.
Fortunately, the Teal Pumpkin Project provides a safe alternative to keep candy away from kids that could potentially be life-threatening.
What is the Teal Pumpkin Project?
Teal is the color of food allergy awareness. With a teal plastic pumpkin or teal-painted pumpkin, neighbors can let trick-or-treating families know that your house is safe to stop at on Halloween night.
The program inspires neighbors to offer food alternatives like toys, trinkets, and games to hand out to costumed kids.
The Teal Pumpkin Project began in 2013, when the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee sought to make trick-or-treating more inclusive.
In the last decade, the project has spread to communities all over the country.
Millions of children in the US have food allergies.
Food allergies are more prevalent than some people may assume. In a 2021 NCHS data brief by the CDC, it was estimated that about 4 million U.S. children have food allergies.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the most common food allergies in children are milk, eggs, and peanuts - ingredients which are all common in the majority of seasonal food products like candy bars and sweet snacks.
Lisa Gable, the CEO of the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), told NPR that although “1 in 13 children” have food allergies, they are often isolated by their peers or excluded from certain activities on Halloween.
"It's a complex disease that causes a great deal of stress for kids and parents," Gable said. "Teal Pumpkin can make [Halloween] stress-free."
Parents of kids with allergies can use teal pails to raise awareness.
Parents of kids with food allergies can purchase a teal trick-or-treat pail — available at many major retailers, including Target and CVS) — to signal to neighbors that their child has a food allergy.
Before stepping out on Halloween night, parents can also ensure that their child’s friends and accompanying adults are aware of any food allergies so that candy stays out of the teal pail and doesn’t get swapped around with other treats.
Communities can make trick-or-treating inclusive in a few easy steps.
For neighbors looking to participate and help keep kids safe, they can place a teal pumpkin — whether plastic or painted — on their doorstep to signify that they have candy alternatives.
For anyone doing a no-contact Halloween, it is important to ensure that any food bowls and non-food bowls left on the porch are clearly marked and kept separate to prevent them from mixing.
Examples of non-edible treats include small games, fidget spinners, stickers, glow sticks, vampire teeth, wind-up toys, toy cars, arts and craft kits, and much more.
For 2023, the Teal Pumpkin project partnered with CVS locations across the country to provide over 100 non-food treat options, many of which are under $5.
The Teal Pumpkin Project continues to grow each year.
For those looking to keep their community informed, FARE has a list of free resources on its website, including signs, posters, and flyers that can be printed off and shared with neighbors to spread the word.
For teachers and parents who want to raise awareness to their kids ahead of the holiday season, FARE also has printable activities and coloring pages geared towards children to get them excited about the Teal Pumpkin project.
As awareness for the project grows each year, people can continue keeping Halloween inclusive for every child in their community.