Central New York, Consumer

Teal Pumpkin Project Promotes Food Allergy Inclusivity

Halloween is tomorrow, which means a lot of kids will be trick-or-treating. But if a child has a food allergy, this can be more scary than fun. NCC Reporter Kristen Powers tells us about a national campaign called the Teal Pumpkin Project, which aims to make this candy filled holiday safe for everyone.

By Kristen Powers SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — The Teal Pumpkin Project is a national campaign by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). Its goal is to raise awareness about food allergies, and to make sure all kids can safely participate in trick-or-treating during Halloween.

The campaign launched in 2014. FARE said that last year 50 states and seven countries participated. This year, 100,000 households have already pledged to participate.

People can place a teal colored pumpkin outside their house, or put up signs to let others know they are handing out non-food treats. This way kids with food allergies can fully participate in trick-or-treating.

Kim Morgan has two kids with life-threatening food allergies. She said that they participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project to support the food allergy community.

“Kids like my kids, we want them to have a little something special that they get to keep that let’s them know we’re thinking of them, and that we want them to be included in this holiday too,” she said.

Morgan said a lot of people don’t realize that many times food allergy kids get excluded.

“It’s just little things, wherever they go we bring their own food, we bring their own meals, we bring our own cake and they’re kind of used to being left out,” she said.

Morgan said that the Teal Pumpkin Project is a way to make her kids feel included.

“We’re big advocates of don’t let food allergies stand in your way. Get out, live your life,” she said. “We trick-or-treat, we go do everything, but we don’t want them to feel excluded.”

Morgan said that right now her kids don’t eat anything that was in the same facility or shared lines as peanuts or tree nuts because their allergies are so severe.

“If someone touches them, whose eaten anything with one of their allergens and hasn’t washed their hands they can have a very serious reaction,” she said.

“We’re very careful about what we have them touch on Halloween,” Morgan said. “It’s kind of a scary holiday for a lot of allergy parents.”

Morgan said that she’s found many people who don’t understand the “contact issue” and the “made in the same facility issue.”

“It’s not just don’t eat the nuts,” she said. “It is so much more than that.”

Michael Parker is a doctor at the Parker Center for Sinus and Allergy. He agreed that Halloween can cause anxiety for parents who have children with a severe food allergy.

“You want your kid to have a normal life, but you want them not to be unduly at risk to have a reaction,” he said.

Dr. Parker said he loved the idea of the Teal Pumpkin Project.

“Particularly in kids who have had significant reactions,” he said. “Let those kids go have fun to!”

Dr. Parker suggested that parents sort through their kids’ candy before letting them dive in.

“Never eat the candy on the road,” he said. “It’s dark and we could get confused with what we opened, so a rule of thumb bring the candy home and sort it.”

For some families they need to take more precautions.

“In that family that knows they have some food sensitivities, sometimes the challenge is the label isn’t always representative of what’s in the food, so you need to be a little cautious there.”

Since Morgan’s kids have life-threatening food allergies, she said it is easier to take many precautions.

“There is safe candy that people hand out, but we don’t have them weed out for it,” she said.

Moegan said she and her husband replace all the candy with safe candy and toys.

“We try to work gloves into the costume, so that they don’t come into contact with the candy,” she said.

Morgan said anyone who partakes in the Teal Pumpkin Project really makes kids with allergies feel special and included.

“Anytime we’ve gone someplace and someone does something to make sure the food is safe for them they appreciate it so much,” she said.