SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – On Halloween, most kids look forward to trick or treating and coming home with their bucket of candy. However, the holiday can be pretty limiting for kids with food allergies. That’s why the Teal Pumpkin Project, a nationwide initiative to create a safe, allergy-free Halloween for kids, was started.
If a house has a teal pumpkin out front, a teal pumpkin sticker or sign, that house has safe, non-food alternatives to treats. Some houses give out small goodie bags with knickknacks and toys, while others have fruit snacks or allergy safe treats.
“It’s always hard to go anywhere when we know there’s food,” said Sara Waldner, a mother of three kids with allergies. “Just knowing that someone is saying, ‘Hey, I want your kid to be included and not feel left out,’ means the world to me.”
Because of her kids’ allergies, Waldner helped start the Huron Area Teal Pumpkin Project chapter last year. The Huron chapter began their project by giving teal pumpkins and alternative treats to all the vehicles for the city’s Trunk or Treat.
“There were 1,600 kids that went through that trunk or treat and every single trunk had safe, alternative options,” Waldner said. “The smiles on my kids’ faces because they could have everything that was passed out was just incredible.”
This year, the Huron chapter is focused on educating and spreading awareness of food allergies. Waldner said they’re hoping homes take the initiative to purchase safe alternatives themselves and register on the Teal Pumpkin Project Map.
There are currently 18 homes in Sioux Falls listed on the map offering candy alternatives like fidget toys, stickers, glow sticks, crocheted ghosts and YumEarth allergy-free candy.
Jalona Gillette has been offering allergy alternatives through the Teal Pumpkin Project for four years. She got her start because her grandson is allergic to milk, eggs and peanuts, which makes a lot of the typical Halloween candy inaccessible to him.
“When I grew up, there was nobody who really had allergies, not like the allergies that are out now,” Gillette said. “You don’t know who’s lactose intolerant or allergic to milk or eggs. So we have a whole separate bowl for the goody bags. Hopefully, they can still trick or treat and have a good time.”
To replace traditional candy, Gillette created individual Halloween goody bags for the children in her neighborhood. She works at the Falls Community Health clinic inside Hayward Elementary School and reached out to all the teachers in the school to get the word out about her allergy-safe trick or treat options.
“There’s over 700 kids at Hayward, so I knew not every kid in every class has an allergy, but even if there were three kids in each class that might have an allergy of some sort,” Gillette said.
The teal pumpkins don’t always have to be associated with food safe allergies, though. Nicole State likes to hand out candy alternatives because it’s healthier and she’s noticed some kids gravitating toward toys rather than a piece of chocolate. State hands out Halloween themed pencils and fruit snacks that are gluten and red dye free.
“I just know some kids don’t like candy,” State said. “When my husband and I grew up, we didn’t really like candy; we were more of the fruits and vegetables type people, so I decided to start handing out knick knacks.”
The Teal Pumpkin Project was first launched in 2012 by the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). According to FARE, one out of 13 children live with a food allergy.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be involved,” she said. “Just having those alternatives and letting kids know that you see them, you understand and you can help them have a fun Halloween is important.”