AUSTIN (KXAN) – For many kids, Halloween is about two things: costumes and candy. But for the youngsters with food allergies, finding treats to eat can be tricky.
Three-year-old Tucker Mack spent the week leading up to Halloween picking out the perfect pumpkin and what to carve on it.
“I want to do Darth Vadar, or the dark side Yoda,” he said. His love for Star Wars almost matches his excitement for his Halloween costume. “We are going to be two ninja masters. It has a ninja hood and then a shirt and pants and a mask.”
Sounds like your typical 3-year-old — Turner’s story, however, is anything but typical.
“It started with an episode with eggs, then he got really really sick and couldn’t keep any food down,” said Turner’s mom, Deborah Turner-Mack.
At 15-months-old, Turner was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis or EoE — a chronic disease that basically causes the esophagus to attack itself. He’s allergic to 14 different foods, many of which are found in Halloween candy.
“In years past when we’ve taken him trick-or treating, we’ve just taken his candy to the dentist and donate it the next day,” his mother explained.
But things are changing, thanks to a new color collaboration known as the Teal Pumpkin Project. Launched as a national campaign by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project raises awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season. Families are encouraged to paint a pumpkin orange and leave it on your patio or porch for all the goblins and ghouls to see. It’s a sign that homes are giving out non-food items instead of candy.
“That way we can say ‘Hey here’s a couple of glow sticks or a yoyo,’ just something little,” Deborah said.
Last year, households from 50 states and 7 countries participated in the Teal Pumpkin Project. The goal this year — 100,000 participating homes.
The pumpkins represent a sign kids will be safe, they’ll have options and there will be a treat for them, too. This Halloween, teal is the new orange
“Just the idea that other people might open their hearts and think about kids that can’t have certain foods, just really warms my heart,” Deborah said.
Here is an interactive map, listing all the locations with homes that have teal pumpkins in the Austin area. There’s also a printable flyer on their website you can post on your door to let parents know you have allergy-free goodies for trick or treaters.
Ideas for Non-Food Treats:
- Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces
- Pencils, pens, crayons or markers
- Halloween erasers or pencil toppers
- Mini Slinkies
- Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers
- Bouncy balls
- Finger puppets or novelty toys
- Spider rings
- Vampire fangs
- Mini notepads
- Playing cards
The Austin Families with Food Allergies Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Austinfamilieswithfoodallergies