Join the Teal Pumpkin Project to give kids with food allergies Halloween treats

This orange plastic pumpkin filled with candy presents a problem for kids with food allergies. Thinkstock

All kids love Halloween candy right? Well, not really. Some kids cannot have it because of medical conditions or food allergies.

Austinite Marty Barnes started a program with Mommies of Miracles, a support/advocacy group for families with children with complex medical issues, to create awareness that homes could treat more kids if they offered non-candy treats.

Barnes and her husband Tim later founded Casey’s Circle, a local nonprofit organization named after their daughter Casey, who had a brain injury at birth. She had cerebral palsy, blindness and deafness, among other diagnoses. The organization provides typical childhood experiences like birthday parties, Christmas parties to children who are medically fragile.

The Teal Pumpkin Project encourages people to have non-food treats on hand to give out on Halloween, an accommodation for kids with food allergies or who otherwise can’t eat candy. Photo from Michelle Fandrich.

Barnes’ initial Halloween awareness program later became the Teal PumpkinPproject from the Food Allergy Research & Education. Paint a teal pumpkin or put out a teal pumpkin sign and people will know that your house has non-food treats, too. Then add your house to the map of homes that are offering non-free treats.

Barnes recommends offering items such as

  • glow bracelets
  • stickers
  • tattoos
  • noise makers
  • bouncy balls

You can also put a sticker on your child that says “non-food items only.” That way you don’t have to explain at every door why you can’t take the candy.

If you do need to take the candy and don’t want to be impolite, your child could still benefit from the candy. Many orthodontists participates in the Halloween Candy Buy Back program. I searched my ZIP code and found multiple locations within 10 miles of my house. You also can ask your own orthodontist if his or her office is participating.

There are a lot of great things happening in the world of food allergies. ‘Specially for Children, which is affiliated with Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, became a FARE site last year.  This means that kids who are at ‘Specially for Children can participate in research studies, like a peanut allergy study.

I’ve also written about how to handle school issues when you have a child with a gluten intolerance or Celiac’s disease. A lot of the same principles would apply to any food allergy or intolerance. Some of the suggestions:

  1. Have approved snacks at school for the teacher to give out if there is a cupcake day.
  2.  Educate the teacher and the classes’ parents about why your child can’t have the cupcake and offer parents solutions of what they could bring for your child.
  3. Empower kids to be their own advocate and understand what they can and cannot have.

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