If on Halloween you see a teal pumpkin on a Wellesley doorstep, it’s not just a holiday decorating project run amok. To those in the know, teal pumpkins are purposefully placed, and they’re sending out a special code. I am here to crack that code as wide open as a vandalized jack-o-lantern.
Part of the Teal Pumpkin project, the blue-green symbols are all about making sure that trick-or-treating is fun and safe for everyone. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 8% of U.S. kids have food allergies and other conditions that preclude them from joining in on the traditional autumnal candy bacchanal. Teal pumpkins serve as a signal to the treats-seeking community that here is a place where non-food loot is available such as glow sticks or small toys. It’s a simple act of consideration designed to promote inclusion for kids whose food allergies turn the fun of Halloween into a just another time when mom and dad are saying a whole lot of “no.”
Teal — it’s not just for 1980s bridesmaids anymore
Teal as the color of food allergy awareness and has been used for 20 years to raise awareness about food allergies — think bumper stickers and banners. The pumpkin add-on came in as a national initiative launched in 2014 by Food Allergy Research & Education to “raise awareness of food allergies and promote inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.”
What got going as a social media campaign has spread to more and more communities. It’s something Wellesley mom and Mass General hospital allergist Kimberly Gold Blumenthal and her family have done for several years. “We have a teal fake pumpkin and a plastic teal pumpkin that we will fill with toys…Children with food allergies, especially those with anaphylactic-type allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, used to feel left out of the Halloween fun. What fun is it to collect a bunch of candies that may not be safe to eat? The teal pumpkin project helps ‘mark’ houses where food-allergic kids can trick or treat at safely, so they can join in the fun.”
It’s an idea whose time has come because let’s be real here. There’s nothing scarier than a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.
Nobody’s trying to take candy away from a non-allergic baby
Candy is still king on Halloween, but the work-around of a toys option for some means a safe and happy Halloween for all. Rebecca Flanagan (those pics, above, are of her home) says, “My 5 year old has severe food allergies, so the Teal Pumpkin Project has really helped to make Halloween easier for my son and make him not feel different from the other children. In our family, the kids trade in the candy they collect for a LEGO set and are given a small bag of safe candy from home. With the inception of the Teal Pumpkin Project he is now able to keep the non-candy treats he collects trick-or-treating, making him feel more included on a day that can be a real challenge for food allergy kids and parents.”