Notice pumpkins of a distinct blue-green shade sprouting up on doorsteps this month? They aren’t just a new Halloween design trend; they’re part of the Teal Pumpkin Project™, an eye-catching way for families to make it known that they’ll be giving out nonedible toys, trinkets, and other candy alternatives to trick-or-treaters.

Started as a local effort by an East Tennessee support group to help children with allergies safely participate in trick-or-treating and launched nationally as the Teal Pumpkin Project by Food Allergy Research & Education last year, the initiative is quickly taking hold among all kinds of families, including those of kids with type 1 diabetes.

Andrea B. and her daughter Kaci, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes several years ago at age seven, painted their first teal pumpkin last year. The decision to take part in handing out non-candy treats on Halloween was an easy one to make.

“Even though Kaci is able to eat candy, it must be covered with the correct amount of insulin. Her first Halloween after diagnosis was incredibly stressful, because it was so hard to know how many carbs were in each piece of candy… since none of them were individually labeled. Then I had to worry that she would go high or low during the night if I calculated incorrectly. It was ‘tricky,’ to say the least,” she remembers.

The Leander, Texas, mom began making non-candy treats available at her house on Halloween even before she heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project. When she learned about the movement, it struck a chord with her family. According to Andrea, “Like Kaci, there are other kids who also have to watch what they eat. There are many kids with peanut, wheat, and other food allergies, any of which can be life threatening.”

This past Halloween, a teal pumpkin painted and decorated by Kaci was placed prominently on their doorstep. The family kept two separate bowls (candy and non-candy treats) and let children choose when they came to the door. As Andrea recalls, “I was surprised that so many kids chose the non-candy items. I think because at all of the other houses they were receiving only candy, it was like the non-candy item was a special treat!”

Erin T., a T1D mom from Montgomery, Alabama, also became involved in the Teal Pumpkin Project this past year, which was her young son’s first Halloween since his diabetes diagnosis. “A friend in our neighborhood playgroup shared with me the Teal Pumpkin Project website,” says Erin. “Among our group we had already been talking about offering nonfood treats. Of course, my son can and occasionally does eat candy, but at his age, it certainly wasn’t something that we wanted large quantities of around the house. The other families in our playgroup were also concerned for the same reason: They wanted to limit the amount of candy in their homes.”

Decorating the pumpkins turned into a fun group event. “Our playgroup set up a playdate so we could all paint pumpkins together. The children had a wonderful time smearing paint on mini pumpkins, pumpkin candy buckets, and foam decorative pumpkins that we will reuse,” Erin describes. She then sent out an e-blast to alert neighbors to the inclusive meaning behind the teal pumpkins.

On Halloween night, Erin’s son enjoyed looking for the teal pumpkins and signs at their friends’ houses. They also stopped at houses without teal pumpkins, then sorted all the treats when they returned home.

“We sorted it into nonfood treats that my son could immediately enjoy, food treats that we saved for treating a low blood sugar, and food treats that we gave away simply because we had so much! Our sorting process really wasn’t that different from my own parents’ sorting process when I was a child, which had nothing to do with type 1 diabetes. I was never allowed to eat the candy as I walked the neighborhood. My parents always checked the candy for safety when I got home, and I was allowed to choose only a few pieces to eat at a time,” she says.

Both Andrea and Erin plan to put out teal pumpkins again this year. Erin likes taking part in a movement that promotes a healthier Halloween for all children.

“It’s satisfying to help promote an idea that benefits so many families, including those managing food allergies or type 1 diabetes as well as those just looking for alternatives to the glut of candy,” she says of her reasons to continue.

Andrea is similarly committed to teal pumpkins at Halloween for the foreseeable future. “We live in a small neighborhood and have a cul-de-sac Halloween party every year. Lots of people have already asked about our ‘special pumpkin.’ It was that much of a hit!”

Want to take part in the Teal Pumpkin Project? Fun nonfood items to offer on Halloween could include: stickers, temporary tattoos, pencils, small rubber duckies, bouncy balls, sidewalk chalk, or ink stampers. Happy trick-or-treating!

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.

The Teal Pumpkin Project is a trademark of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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