Halloween is just around the corner and if you have children there is something beyond costumes on their minds and likely yours – treats. Perhaps you are like the growing number of parents who feel a little ill when thinking about buying bags of sugar-laden pseudo-foods to hand out en-mass to neighborhood kids you barely know in the name of “treating” them. This year, thanks to the Food Allergy Research & Education organization(FARE), a new trend is beginning that is no joke and may just make trick-or-treat friendly for all.
There are over 70,000 children with food allergies in just Utah alone and in the US, a reported 15 million people – about 1 in ever 13 child – has food sensitivities, making food allergies a growing concern for all. This Halloween, a movement called the Teal Pumpkin Project is starting through FARE to change things. It seems to be opening up an avenue for increased awareness about the trick we have all participated in regarding the lack of health in the Halloween tradition as well as how many of us feed our youth in general.
What originated as a pagan holiday where people would honor the passing of ancestors by acknowledging the thinness between worlds has transformed into a strange celebration of ghouls and goblins, ghosts and vampires, accented by the slow poisoning of our children by “treats” latent with artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and tons of white sugar. Many of these additives have been shown to contribute to ADD and ADHD in children, as well as trigger other symptoms of depression, digestive disorders and sleep problems, to name just a few. Imagine the significance of sending our youth out door to door, dressed in bloody faces and fantastical costumes in order to receive a sack full of items that will contribute, no doubt, to the health problems of their future. Now that is frightening.
The Teal Pumpkin Project is a brilliant movement that may help tip the scales, not only for children with allergies, but for every child by making trick-or-treat more friendly for all. It is unfortunate that every where you go these days, grown-ups think handing kids a sucker, piece of taffy or some other sugary snack is sweet. If you are a parent of a child with allergies, or just a conscious mom or dad who would rather not expose your kids to snacks that are unworthy of their growing bodies, you may feel evil just trying to cash a check while turning down lollipops for your smallest passenger. How about school? The place you send your children to for an education has now become a feeding house for sugary “treats” as rewards for good behavior and bribes for completion. Parents who wish to avoid the now-standard protocol of treat giving in school have to send a note and provide teachers with healthier alternatives rather than trust their child will be safe from harm in the arms of a system that does not fully value health.
Though it is a small step, the Teal Pumpkin Project is making a bold move toward raising awareness regarding the items we have so causally purchased and handed out, year after year, though with good intention. Rather than sugary snacks, FARE’s project suggests handing out non-food items such as Halloween rings, bouncy balls, whistles, erasers, and the like, so that children with allergies can feel included in a holiday tradition which encourages the house-to-house gathering of goods. What may hopefully come of such a trend, is the transformation of said holiday into one where fun is emphasized over sugar consumption and where grown-ups become educated as to the ingredient dangers in many of the most common assumed snacks.
To participate, you need only acquire a pumpkin and color it teal or print off the flyer available on the Food Allergies Research and Education site to let trick-or-treaters know you have non-food options. Then, let the new experiences begin!
We have come far enough down this road of ill-health and prevalent disease to begin to realize where the problems likely arise. It is in the simple and small things where the greatest tricks take root. In the case of children and having their best health interest in mind, the trick-or-treat that is made friendly for all may be much more than that. This Halloween, and every other occasion where you have the choice to buy candy for kids, perhaps it would do well to remember the Teal Pumpkin Project and stop tricking yourself into believing such treats are kind. In the end, finding ourselves in a world where the kids enjoy growing up without artificial flavors and colors and without food sensitivities too would be a trick I’m sure we’d all love to see.
Opinion by Stasia Bliss