Feeling Blue on Halloween

Feeling Blue on Halloween

Hannah Browne, Reporter

It’s dark and the streets are starting to fill with ghosts, goblins, princesses and superheroes, all merrily running from house to house, filling up their pumpkins with as much candy as possible before they get called home for the evening.

In the mayhem, a pint sized Wonder Woman approaches my doorway and rings the doorbell. “Trick-or-treat,” she says with a wistful, blue look on her face.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“Thanks for the candy,” she says, “but I can’t eat it. I’m allergic. I will give it to my brother though!”

I wish I had something else to give my new hero but the line at the door is long and she has to go.

Wonder Woman is not alone. One in every 13 children in the U.S. has food allergies, and those at risk for life threatening anaphylaxis are particularly exposed during Halloween.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the most common allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy and wheat, which are in many popular Halloween candies. Additionally, mini or fun-size versions of candy are not labeled well, therefore kids with allergies may assume that a certain trusted candy is safe to eat and end up in the emergency room.

Anxiety levels are high, with parents dumping the candy into the trash can as soon as it enters the house. Stern warnings are issued repeatedly by parents – do not eat the candy!  

Hearing stories such as this one inspired the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization to create a solution. Their Teal Pumpkin Project promotes the inclusion of all trick or treaters throughout the Halloween season and asks for respect for those individuals managing food allergies.

The Teal Pumpkin Project asks participating households to put a painted, teal blue pumpkin in front of their homes on Halloween indicating that they have non-food related treats available such as glow sticks, stickers and small toys. The goal is to get one house on every block to participate.

Why teal? Teal is the color used to promote food allergy awareness.

FARE makes it clear that they do not want to exclude Halloween candy from the traditional night of tricks and treats; instead, they want to encourage people to provide an alternative for kids with food allergies and those who have conditions such as celiac disease and diabetes that prevent them from eating Halloween candy that could be life threatening.

In a country in which every two kids in a classroom has a food allergy, there has been a shift in awareness of the issue, with parents of non allergic kids learning to accommodate the needs of others. Compassionate parents and teachers view this as an opportunity to teach kindness and empathy to children. Supporting The Teal Pumpkin Project can be a part of this teaching.

Annalora Calin, campus minister and spiritual director, has been putting a teal pumpkin on her doorstep for several years, supporting her daughter and other children in the neighborhood that have food allergies. She supports teachers doing the same in their classrooms for the Halloween season.

Calin says, “I think it’s great if all the faculty are really supportive and understand that it is not just a preference or a student being picky. [Allergy kids] could actually really get sick and end up in the hospital. And, I know that it can make them feel isolated if they aren’t included.”

Social justice teacher Lisa Dalton points out that Catholic social teaching asks society to look at things from the perspective of the poor and vulnerable. With 5% of the population having potentially life threatening food allergies, Dalton agrees that people with food allergies are included as part of the vulnerable.

Dalton says, “That somebody will get sick from what society figures is perfectly acceptable and is the norm, is something we need to look seriously at, and it is a justice issue.”

The Teal Pumpkin Project is a way to show that this social justice issue is being recognized, supported, and addressed. Wonder Woman should not feel blue on Halloween.

Inspired to participate? Here’s how:

  • Paint a pumpkin teal and put it on your front porch on Halloween
  • If you do not have any paint handy, print a free flyer from FARE’s website
  • Or, purchase a ready made teal pumpkin at a store such as CVS
  • Purchase some non-food related treats such as glow bracelets, stickers and pencils
  • Put them in a separate container from food treats
  • Offer your trick-or-treaters the choice of a food or non-food treat
  • Do not be surprised if your non-food related treats go fast!
  • Tweet your experience to #tealpumpkinproject
  • Know that you have made a difference to every 1 in 13 of your trick-or-treaters