The Mystery of the Teal Pumpkins

When you see this poster, you'll know there are safe treats!

When you see this poster, you’ll know there are safe treats!

I am not usually a bandwagon jumper. I like to go along with the crowd enough to fit in but I did not do the ice bucket challenge, succeed at posting 3 thankful thoughts a day or any of the other social media movements.

I tend to be practical, to take direct action, to try make the world a little better for others. So why am I in the craft store stressing about teal paint?

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has launched a campaign to create an inclusive environment for food allergy children at trick or treating. They are encouraging families to paint a pumpkin teal if they are going to offer a non-food treat. (The poster is downloadable, by the way.)

Eventually, I did pick a few colors, and Mariah and Noah got painting!

Eventually, I did pick a few colors, and Mariah and Noah got painting!

FARE’s idea is to give an option that’s open to every trick-or-treater. I like this idea. First of all, as you know, if you’ve read my earlier articles, my family manages food allergies. And…well, in previous years they have made banks available that the child with food allergies can use to collect money for FARE instead of gathering candy. I could never send my children out with that….talk about not being a cool kid or feeling like there was a spotlight on you!

I have had a child with food allergies for seven years. I should know what the FARE official color is, right? I feel like this is how living with food allergies always is. When I first have a conversation with someone about food allergies I feel like they often walk away and can see it all clearly. They’ll make “can eat and can’t eat” lists in their heads.

But then as they try to make a meal, to feed someone with food allergies they realize that they don’t have a clue. It’s all about reading labels, and being very, very careful.

I do that all the time, when I’m shopping for my family. And so here I am, with familiar feelings, in the craft store paint aisle laboring over which shade is truly teal because none of the labels simply say “teal” but instead are catchy names like “Bahama breeze” or “ocean foam”.

I wish FARE had chosen a more concrete color- like red or green. But maybe it is more fitting than first thought. Like everyone’s experiences with food allergies, the color teal may be different for each person.

Just plain pennies work for trick-or-treaters too!

Just plain pennies work for trick-or-treaters too!

Maybe instead of one teal pumpkin I will have several in varying shades. You don’t have to do anything extra to provide a non-food treat. While temporary tattos, noise makers and glowsticks are cool for the children, you probably have a penny jar too. I still remember the house that always had a jar of pennies, and let us take a few.

There also are some candies that are more allergy friendly like starbursts, skittles and smarties–unless you’re avoiding food coloring. (Sigh.)

My daughter loves it when a house offers one of those candies, and she knows pick it if given the chance. If the grown-up hands out the candy, either she or her brother will request the “safe” item. When we get home I will trade any of her “unsafe” candy for our “safe” treat bowl candy.

I have read some really horrible ugly blogs about how terrible this teal pumpkin campaign is and how horrible food allergy parents are because they expect other people to take responsibility. I hope that you can see that we all just want our kids to be normal treat-seeking kids. I will have a tealish shade of pumpkin and will be offering both food and non-food treats. We will go trick or treating like we normally do, stopping at all the houses with porch lights on.

Finished teal pumpkins! This is definitely an "outside" project. Our picnic table is teal too!

Finished teal pumpkins! This is definitely an “outside” project. Our picnic table is teal too!

I will still check my daughter’s bag and do what I need to do to keep her safe. But when we see a teal pumpkin or the FARE window sign, I will smile to myself and feel like people are joining me on the road and trying to understand what shade teal is.

For more info on the teal pumpkin project visit FARE at http://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project