This Halloween, some kids will be on the lookout for teal-painted pumpkins.
The Teal Pumpkin Project, a national campaign started last year by Food Allergy Research & Education, known as FARE, aims to raise awareness of food allergies and promote inclusion during trick-or-treating.
Homeowners who place teal pumpkins in front of their house are letting children and parents know they are serving allergy-friendly treats.
Food allergies affect 1 in 13 children under the age of 18 in the U.S., and the number has increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, according to FARE’s website.
Anita Wokhlu, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Florida, will be participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project this year. Her daughter, Himal, is allergic to eggs and has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts and tree nuts.
She said Himal doesn’t always have a gratifying experience during Halloween because she can’t eat certain types of candy, but she enjoys dressing up in costumes and going to people’s houses.
“It’s more of an interpersonal experience,” Wokhlu said. “She usually just gives out candy and talks with neighbors.”
Himal thinks the project is a good idea because people with food allergies can still enjoy Halloween and trick-or-treating.
“Sometimes during Halloween, when people have toys in the baskets, it’s fun because I can actually do it [participate],” the 10-year-old said.
When Himal goes trick-or-treating with her parents and they receive candy she is allergic to, she said they just throw it out or give it away.
“Food allergies can be very severe — I know mine are because I’ve had reactions to them before,” Himal said.
In addition to providing allergy-friendly candy, Wokhlu has ordered several toys to give out as well, such as glow-in-the-dark eyeballs and necklaces, charms, and Halloween pencils and stickers.
Some additional food-allergy friendly treats include Mike and Ike’s, Surf Sweets, Gimbal’s, BEE International, Goody Good Stuff and PEEPS, according to Allergic Living.
“I think that even though it’s an extra effort to buy the pumpkin, paint it teal and get these extra treats, Halloween is really a community event,” Wokhlu said.
Melissa Redon will also be participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project. Both of her kids, Kayla, 12, and Dylan, 7, have food allergies.
Dylan, who is allergic to dairy, nuts, eggs and shellfish, said he’s excited to paint the pumpkin teal with his family. On Halloween, he is most looking forward to meeting new neighbors and hopes there will be food that’s safe for all the kids, he said.
Redon, who also participated in the project last year, said she hopes this campaign will generate more exposure, raise awareness and make people think. She said it is something most people don’t think about unless they have to.
The idea of having items other than candy is helpful because there are so many different kinds of allergies, Redon said.
“I think it’s really important for kids with allergies or sensitivities to feel a part of Halloween, otherwise it’s just extremely disappointing for kids to go up to houses, get candy and not be able to eat any of it,” she said.