Imagine having a child who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and milk — all things commonly found in sweet treats given out during Halloween. It can be a tricky and scary time for parents who are taking their allergic kids on the trick or treat trail. The Teal Pumpkin Project, a worldwide movement, is working to create a more inclusive, safer and happier Halloween for all kids.
The Teal Pumpkin Project was created over six years ago by a Tennessee mom, Becky Basalone, whose son was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies. For Halloween, Basalone painted a pumpkin teal as a way of letting trick-or-treaters know that her family also was handing out non-food items to include allergy sufferers. The family gave out items such as glow sticks, googly eye glasses, slime, rings, and other fun things that made kids excited.
Later, the nonprofit organization Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) partnered with Basalone to give the movement greater exposure. According to FARE, in 2018, more than 27,800 people around the country registered their homes or trick-or-treat locations on FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project map. That’s a 22 percent increase from 2017 and includes over 2,000 international locations.
FARE CEO Lisa Gable says that even major retailers are getting on board. It’s a move that she says is helping to elevate the national conversation around food allergies.
“Since this program has been trending across the United States for the past six years, the food companies have been stepping forward and building up choices with foods free of the top eight allergens,” she says. “More choices are being made available. We are also excited to see major retail operations like Michaels, Walmart and CVS feature teal pumpkins in their Halloween sections. People are asking questions about why the pumpkins are teal and as a result, they are learning more about the dramatic increase of food allergies in our country.”
Gable adds that one out of 13 children — which is approximately two children in every classroom — has food allergies. She says that number has been increasing dramatically over the past two decades. Her hope is that the Teal Pumpkin becomes a part of the norm, that it becomes as popular as the orange one.
Anyone can participate by putting a teal pumpkin on their doorstep during Halloween as a way of signaling to trick-or-treaters that you offer allergy-friendly or non-food treats. Also, add your home address or trick or treat location to the Teal Pumpkin Project Map.