The teal pumpkins are part of a national campaign called the Teal Pumpkin Project—an initiative created by a devoted mom out of Knoxville, TN, Becky Basalone, who has a child with life-threatening food allergies. "The strategy behind placing a teal pumpkin outside of your home during Halloween signals to kids with food allergies that in addition to candy, that particular home is also offering non-food treats such as toys, glow sticks, pencils, stickers, and more," explains Basalone.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA, reports that nearly 1 in 13 children—2 per U.S. classroom—now have a food allergy and that the only way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the allergen. Karen Harris, president for Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta, explains that "The Teal Pumpkin Project helps to mitigate the risk of children with food allergies coming in contact with an allergen, which could potentially cause a severe allergic reaction—called anaphylaxis."
Basalone's "teal pumpkin" spread quickly across the nation and has influenced giant retailers such as Michaels and Target stores to adopt the project. This year at Target, shoppers can find shelves lined with allergy-friendly options, such as top-eight allergen-free candies and toys and trinkets. Walmart has also joined in a similar concept marked with a teal ghost. The project is now making an impact in Georgia schools and PTO organizations.
PTO president of Brookwood Elementary, Kristen Wilkes, and PTO chair of health, safety, and nutrition, Tracie Andrews, collaborated earlier this year to identify ways to make food options safer for students with food allergies. "Teal pumpkins are one way that the PTO has incorporated safer food options into our school events—the goal is to make available allergy-friendly food options during all PTO sponsored events throughout the entire school year," says Andrews. She explained that "while Halloween events are still manageable for children with food allergies, the option to participate in the same festivities as friends—and keep your treats—creates a safer and more inclusive activity."
Shonna Lester is the parent of a child with food allergies who attends Brookwood Elementary school and who also attended this year's Halloween event. "I didn't have to worry," Lester explained, and said that this was the first time an activity occurred at school where her "daughter could participate in everything." "It was nice to feel included, and the school and PTO coordinated the event in a way that included food allergy kids, without calling attention to their needs," said Lester.
Harris and other advocates praised the school's actions and explained that schools and PTO leaders have options to improve school-sponsored events that help to create safer environments for all students. Implementing a school food allergy program that includes allergy-friendly activities, such as the Teal Pumpkin Project, makes accomplishing this goal easy. Harris also stressed the importance of families and schools being prepared to handle an emergency allergic reaction by keeping two epinephrine auto-injectors and an emergency action plan close by at all times and that school staff and volunteers should be trained to identify the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Posters and resources explaining how families can participate this year in the Teal Pumpkin Project are available to download for free on the Food Allergy Research and Education's website. School staff wanting to learn how to implement a food allergy program into their school or PTO can contact Tracie Andrews at Tracie@foodallergykidsatl.org.
About Food Allergies
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, reports that food allergies are a growing epidemic that now affects 8% of U.S. children. There is currently no cure for food allergies, and the only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid coming in contact with the allergen. Eight foods account for 90% of food allergies in the U.S. and include peanut, tree nut, dairy, wheat, egg, soy, shellfish, and fish.
About Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta
Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta (FAKA) is a Georgia nonprofit serving all communities in the state. The group offers free in-service training for school staff and educators and offers its members free membership, support group meetings, allergy-friendly activities, and more. For more information, visit the Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta website, Facebook page, email, or call (404) 512-7983.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC). (2019).
Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/foodallergies/index.htm