“Holiday stress” takes on new meaning when you are a food allergy mom. Large family gatherings, school parties, eating unfamiliar food while traveling, potluck meals, and gifts of homemade goodies are all opportunities for food allergens to sneak into the life of your food allergic child. Through lots of preparation (e.g., calling hosts in advance to see what is being served and cooking a safe version to bring for your child) and vigilance (e.g., demanding everyone wash hands and wipe faces after eating), we manage.
Halloween, however, has always presented unique challenges. How do I keep my child safe while allowing him the joy of running from house to house with his friends ringing door bells and getting treats? Thankfully, through the Teal Pumpkin Project, food allergy families are finding support.
Last year, we spent Halloween with some good friends and the other families who live on their street. After a great group backyard barbeque (only in Texas do you barbecue on Halloween!), we headed out for some trick-or-treating. Our son, four at the time, was very aware of his food allergies. He went up to each home with the other children, told them he had food allergies, and looked in the bucket of goodies to see if he recognized any safe treats. Occasionally, he would get lucky and come running back to us with a big grin exclaiming, “Mommy, Daddy, guess what? They had something I can eat!” At this point, we took out a flashlight and carefully reviewed the product and its ingredients to confirm. Most of the time, however, he would return empty handed, ask for a safe treat for his bag, and we would hand him a piece of candy from the stash we were carrying with us.
As food allergy parents, we are used to social situations in which our child has a bit of a different experience. When others say, “Wow, that must be tough for him,” we smile and say that it is all he has ever known and move on. In a way, I guess we have become a bit numb to the situation. I was brought back to reality last year and reminded just how strong and resilient our son is through a conversation with one of the other parents we were with that night. We had just met the family that evening. During the earlier barbecue, we had talked about the extent and severity of our son’s food allergies. After a few blocks of watching our child trick-or-treat, the dad exclaimed, “This is heartbreaking. Next year, I am going to run ahead to each house and give them a safe treat to give your son.” While the compassion shown by this new friend was heartwarming, my hope is that with the Teal Pumpkin Project this won’t be necessary.
What Exactly Is the Teal Pumpkin Project?
Teal is the color associated with food allergy awareness. The Teal Pumpkin Project promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters during the Halloween season, and it is easy to participate. Simply set out a teal pumpkin on your porch or download a free porch sign to indicate that, in addition to the typical candy assortment, you will have non-food treats for the ghosts, goblins, and little pumpkins who will be ringing your doorbells this Halloween. If desired, you can even add your home to the interactive map of families providing trick-or-treat options for children with food allergies. Show your support for friends, family members, or neighbors who are managing a life with food allergies and commit to adding a bit of teal to your Halloween décor now!
It is amazing to see how fast the Teal Pumpkin Project has caught on, just in its third year. Major retailers are now supporting the project by selling decorative teal pumpkins, teal paint pumpkin kits, and non-food Halloween treats. The Teal Pumpkin Project is a chance to turn what can be a truly scary holiday for food allergy families into the fun event it should be for all children. I hope you will consider supporting the local Fort Worth food allergy community. Remember, teal is the new orange.
Looking for another way to support the Food Allergy Community this fall? Join the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) Walk to say FAREwell to food allergies on November 5 at the Dallas Zoo.
The walk will be held at the Dallas Zoo on November 5 with activities starting at 7:45 a.m. The walk supports the one in 13 children in the U. S. with food allergies. Please join us as we raise funds to fight this life-altering and potentially life-threatening disease. Follow the link to join our team, “Cowtown Supporters,” or start your own team. We hope to see you there!
The Fort Worth Moms Blog hosts 19 Neighbor Groups via Facebook, including the Fort Worth Food Allergy Moms. These groups are free to join and offer online and offline opportunities to build relationships and gain resources from other moms in the area.
Alison grew up in San Diego, California and met her husband, Sam, while attending college in Northern California. After a stint in Nashville and a long run in Washington, D. C., they moved to Fort Worth four years ago with their son, now five, and added a daughter a couple of years later, now two. In addition to her role as mom, Alison is an attorney. She juggles this crazy, beautiful life with the help of a latte (or two) a day, the partnership of her husband, sweet snuggles with her littles, a good workout, and the ever important glass of wine with a friend. Admittedly, this all works better some days than others.