Halloween is here again—jack-’o-lanterns are being carved. Little Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Princess Elsas are practicing their best trick-or-treat choruses. Scary movies are being watched (and eyes are being hidden during the really terrifying scenes). Candy and snacks of all kinds are being stockpiled. Everything is almost ready for the little ghouls and goblins to run amok through our neighborhoods, but these preparations bring lingering concern for some.
Halloween should be a fun and festive time for those who celebrate it, particularly for its younger participants. Children who join in the holiday should only have to worry about certain things—having a great costume, wielding a bag big enough to tote their tasty treats, and maybe getting frightened by the creepy fun of the season. These things are easy to take for granted but for many families, it’s not so simple. Instead of just having to double check the kids’ candy stash for unwrapped goodies or rationing out the haul to prevent sugar overload, some parents and caregivers have to confiscate the entire bag or not take their children out at all due to their kids’ food allergies or dietary restrictions, thus depriving their sons and daughters of what should be an enjoyable night for the whole family. Some folks might be wondering what the big deal is—can’t safety-concerned family members just be thorough in their perusal of this year’s sweets? Shouldn’t an older child be able to read the label and know which foods are forbidden? In some households, yes, it might be that easy but for many, it’s not.
For children with multiple and/or severe food allergies, those allergens can eliminate an entire sack of sugary goodness, making the entire evening’s trick or treating a huge waste. For some kids, an allergic reaction just means an upset stomach; for others, the reaction might involve life-threatening anaphylactic shock or other severe bodily responses. There might be enough time at each house to stop and ask about the ingredients in question, but many people who are on door duty don’t have the time, energy, or nutritional knowledge to adequately address the concerns of caregivers. Unless candy providers have an encyclopedic knowledge of the ingredients going into their confections, they might not even realize that what they’re passing out could be dangerous to these sensitive children. This reasoning holds true for children who are just learning about the terminology associated with their medical conditions—they might know they can’t eat wheat bread or drink milk that comes from a cow, but things become less certain when they read the words “gluten” or “lactose” on a candy wrapper.
All of these dietary variables make adequate safeguards hard to find, but a non-profit called Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has created the Teal Pumpkin Project as a way to combat this problem. By situating a teal-painted pumpkin on the front stoop (teal being the color for food allergy awareness), a homeowner is able to signal to incoming trick-or-treaters that they can expect to find non-food treats—think glow sticks or monster finger puppets—available at that particular house. While intended to help those with food allergies, this gesture could also be useful for families whose diets are restricted in other ways—perhaps for religious reasons or by lifestyle choices. All the same though, passing out stickers instead of Snickers could have a huge impact on trick-or-treaters.
Choosing to paint or not paint a decorative gourd is a pretty small decision in the grand scheme of things. It’s just as small as the call to purchase a bag of blowing bubbles instead of some M&M’s. Many might think that an ethical reasoning strategy like the 8KQ should be reserved for the tougher situations, the choices that will have major effects on many people, but the determination to break out the paint supplies or not is one that will touch lots of little people, many of whom are keenly aware of their dietary difference and reminded of it on a daily basis. After thinking about those children and applying the 8KQ, will you be painting a pumpkin teal in order to pass out tiny toys this Halloween?