Since 1939, with the first national publication about Halloween, as well as the real beginning of the trick-or-treating tradition, Halloween has essentially been exactly the same, year after year. Kids and teens dress up in their favorite costumes, run around their neighborhoods knocking on doors asking for candy, and houses are decorated in orange and black colors with scary statues of witches or ghosts on the lawn. The holiday has been advertised and branded in the same way ever since people can remember, and no one has ever really thought of a reason to change that, until now.
This year, families across the country are deciding to switch it up a bit for a great cause. In an effort to promote food allergy awareness, this Halloween, many people are participating in a campaign called the Teal Pumpkin Project. Instead of decorating with traditional orange pumpkins, people can place a teal pumpkin outside their door, signifying and encouraging others to offer non-food treats so kids with food allergies can still enjoy all the fun of Halloween without feeling left out or at risk.
The teal pumpkin signifies to parents and fellow trick-or-treaters that the house will be offering fun games and toys, like spider rings, temporary tattoos, and stickers, instead of candy. Previous trials of the teal experiment have shown that all kids enjoy these fun gimmicks and are excited about having something they can bring to school with them, and it is an awesome way for those with allergies to still participate in trick-or-treating.
The Food Allergy Research & Education first launched and promoted the campaign last year in Tennessee. Teal was chosen as the call-to-action color, since teal has been the designated color representing food allergy awareness for nearly two decades now. Since 1998, the month of May has been designated as food allergy awareness month, where they do everything between notifying schools about the dangers of food allergy, to setting up an anti-bullying campaign towards kids. Their mission is to develop and provide the food industry with credible information, expert opinions, tools, and services relating to allergenic foods; which is just what they’re doing through this innovative campaign.
Some people do not realize how serious a severe, inconvenient, and potentially fatal allergy can be. The mother of a 5-year-old girl named Evie explains how hard it is raising a kid with food allergies. Her family needs to eat the same meals almost every night, and they can rarely go on vacation, for fear of a reaction occurring and not being close enough to get to a hospital. She had to petition Evie’s school and made the entire campus a ‘nut-free zone.’
Evie’s school had no problem making it nut-free. Unfortunately though, other families go through a lot more trouble with it. It is usually an issue with the other parents, who insist on packing peanut flavored items in their kid’s lunch. One mom stated “food allergies are figments of their overprotective parents’ imaginations, and that nut-free rules in classrooms oppress the children who would otherwise embody survival of the fittest, were it not for the commies.”
What some people don’t understand is that Evie’s life, as well as thousands of others, are at risk every time they are around any type of food with peanuts or many other ingredients, even if it isn’t touching them. That is why it is so important for parents across the nation to be knowledgeable about food allergies so they realize that something as innocent as putting peanuts in their kids’ lunch could cause another student to lose their life.
This photo shows Elias Habib, 4, who has a life threatening peanut allergy, with pumpkins painted teal in honor of food-allergy awareness and the Teal Pumpkin Project.
Halloween has previously come as a disappointment to many kids, which should never be the case. Joseph Sexson, a 7-year-old who has allergies to milk, eggs, and peanuts, is unable to eat many of Halloween’s most popular candies. He has in the past had to trade with his sister things such as Reese’s peanut butter cups, for Skittles and Jolly Ranchers; but not the same delightful bartering that encapsulates the end of Halloween where kids trade experience their least favorite candy for the favorite. Joseph trades his candy out of the necessity for his life. This year, their family plans to join the Teal Movement and let their neighbors know that their house is a safe place for kids with allergies. Many of their neighbors have shown empathy and decided to collaborate as well for support.
The campaign has launched an incredible amount of reaction. Their first two Facebook posts have reached 5.2 million people and were shared 52,000 times. The goal is to have parents of trick-or-treaters come up to the house and ask about what the meaning behind all the teal pumpkins is, and to have them get on board with it too. This movement not only provides an opportunity for all kids to enjoy new types of treats, but it also lets people become aware of how serious food allergies are.