Holy smokes, I’m getting a lot of questions this week about food allergies and Halloween – which makes me super happy!

What is the Teal Pumpkin Project? Are you doing it?

Do kids with severe food allergies even go trick or treating? How is that safe?

Do you have tips for families with food allergies on how to take some of the focus off of candy?

What are some allergy-friendly candies I could give out this year? Where can I buy it?

What else can I do to make my house an allergy-friendly stop for children with food allergies? 

I’ve covered some of these topics in previous posts over the years, but I’m going to take a crack at answering all of these questions in one post. Hold onto your pumpkins, ladies and gentlemen!

What is the Teal Pumpkin Project?

The Teal Pumpkin Project is a new awareness initiative led by a national advocacy group for food allergies called Food Allergy Research & Education. Here’s how they describe it simply:

teal pumpkin pledge

Here’s how I described the Teal Pumpkin Project to my neighborhood in our Facebook group:

teal pumpkin ideasAs Halloween is approaching I wanted to tell you all about a new awareness effort this year to help Halloween be a little safer for kids with food allergies. I know, nobody had food allergies when we were kids, but today 1 in 13 kids has food allergies and most of them want to trick-or-treat like ‘regular kids.’ My child is 7 and has severe food allergies and we still go trick or treating, but he can typically only eat a few pieces of candy he collects because most of it has things he’s allergic to in it.

You may have seen on the news that there is a “Teal Pumpkin” effort underway – that as an *option* some people are choosing to have non-food items in addition to candy to help those kids with special needs (also think of diabetes, etc). You can paint a pumpkin teal and place on your doorstep or hang one of the easy-to-print signs on your door [link to FARE] to show everyone that you have some non-food treats at your house. I picked up some cheap pencils, skull rings and glow in the dark bats to keep on hand as an option.

If you don’t want to do this or think it’s ridiculous, no need to bother. But for those who DO want to be a little more sensitive to trick-or-treaters with special needs, I can promise you that my 7 year old little Skylander trick-or-treater will be super excited to stop by your house. Thank you.

Wait, Missy, why did you even mention people thinking it might be ridiculous? 
The Teal Pumpkin Project has been covered pretty heavily in the news. I’ve been impressed that people are paying attention and many people are “opting in” to do this in addition to giving out candy. I’ve also been sad to see many negative comments on Facebook comment threads connected to these news stories – people complaining that this initiative takes the fun out of Halloween and being negative about kids with food allergies in general. Candy is good. Toys are good. Compassion is good. Let’s try it.

Do kids with severe food allergies actually go trick or treating? How is that even safe?

Yes, they really do! Most of the families I know with food allergies do trick or treat each year. It’s so much more about the costumes and having fun than it is about the candy. Although there are safety precautions we can take to make it safe(r) for kids with food allergies.

  • Have the child wear gloves with their costume to prevent skin contact reactions.
  • If a person gives us a choice of candy out of a bowl, we look for something with no nuts and we’ll mention food allergies. Always in a polite, educating-sort-of-way.
  • Some families swap out unsafe candy for safe candy they’ve purchased themselves. Others “buy” the unsafe candy their kids bring home if the kiddo is excited to have money. Or trade it for a really cool toy.
  • The “Switch Witch” is a fun tradition – we trade all the unsafe candy for a toy (book and doll available at Target). See my review here.
  • We also remember to BRING OUR EPI PENS when trick-or-treating, and
  • Teach our children how to recognize safe v. unsafe candy (see my post from last year: How to help kids with food allergies on Halloween

What are some allergy-friendly candies I could give out this year? Where can I buy it?

A good place to start is to look for some non-chocolate candies. Nearly all chocolate treats on the market are made on equipment shared with peanuts. Here are some common candies you can find at Target or Walgreens that are free of the top 8 food allergens (making them safe for most kids with food allergies):

  • Dum Dum suckers
  • Mini Laffy Taffy
  • Smarties
  • Dots
  • Lifesaver Gummies
  • Skittles
  • Mike & Ike’s
  • Starbursts
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Fruit Rollups
  • GoGo Squeez
  • …and of course, food-free items like pencils, tattoos, rings

What else can I do to make my house an allergy-friendly stop for children with food allergies? 

Most of us don’t think twice about choosing a treat or two to throw into those pillow cases or plastic pumpkins at the door. But kids with food allergies really appreciate it when you hold the bowl out for them to choose. They (or their parents) can quickly spot treats that are safe for them. That small gesture can really go a long way for families with food allergies navigating this tricky holiday.

Another thing we really appreciate is if you keep the peanut & chocolate candies in a separate bowl from the “safe” candy, to help reduce the risk of cross contact. We’d also love it if you wash your hands after snacking on Snickers if you’re handing out candy. No sense getting traces of peanuts on all those safe candies and pencils you went out of your way to buy! 🙂

Do you have tips for families with food allergies on how to take some of the focus off of candy?

You bet. With all holidays, my goal is to take the emphasis OFF of food and place it ON creating memories and traditions with my kiddos. Think about how your family could do the same. For example:

  • Decorate your house to make the celebration last more than just one day. We hang up paper Jack-o-lanterns inside around the house each year and hang orange lights from the window. We also have some silly bats and spiders hiding around the house. The kids love doing this each year. I store everything in a large orange storage bin so we always know where they are!
  • Create your own festive food traditions. I’ve made safe Jack-O-Lantern cupcakes in the past with orange & black frosting.
  • Order special “safe” holiday candy. My child LOVES the coffin mummy chocolate candies I buy from Premium Chocolatiers.
  • Host a food allergy-friendly party gathering where the emphasis is on costumes and fun, not food.

If you’ve actually read this far, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Remember, these kiddos just want to be like every other kid on Halloween. Running around, hopped up on sugar in the dark with their friends. Thank you for helping them a little bit along the way.


You can find more of my food allergy posts, tips & recipes on my Food Allergy page. I’d also love to connect with you on my Marketing Mama facebook page and twitter. This post, and all posts on this blog, are written from my experiences as a parent of a child with food allergies. I am not a medical expert and encourage you to consult with a doctor on your personal medical situation.


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7 Responses to “What is the Teal Pumpkin Project? And everything you wanted to know about kids with food allergies on Halloween but were afraid to ask.”

  1. Katie says:

    Lifesaver gummies are the best!!! (and hard to find when trick or treating) so in the future I’ll stock up on those! (I currently live outside of a small town, so no trick or treaters).

  2. Kathy says:

    Excellent article! You’ve answered these questions beautifully and made some great suggestions, especially taking the focus of holidays off of food. Whether food allergies or not, that’s good advice!

  3. Emily says:

    I have my sign printed out! Missy you inspired me to do this. Thank you! I know a few children in our neighborhood will benefit. Heck, I’m thankful not to have all the candy around. I stocked up on fun glow in the dark bat rings, small play-dough, pumpkin erasers, and more.

    • Missy says:

      That is so awesome, Emily! I’m super excited to hear this. 🙂 The great part about it is that you won’t feel the need to eat up all the leftover candy! Ha 🙂 Thanks for being so awesome and inclusive of all kiddos for Halloween!

  4. lynnanne says:

    Are packages of gum ok?



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