The Teal Pumpkin Project and Enjoy Life

This article was originally published in October 2015

Do you remember being a kid on Halloween? I used to go out with a pack of the neighborhood kids. We'd walk for blocks and snatch up as much candy as possible. I usually went as a pumpkin, all stuffed with newspaper. My brother liked to go as a ninja or Dracula, and there were always a few token witches and black cats. Our neighborhood was a suburb full of young families and we'd walk to every door on the block until our pillow cases were stuffed with goodies and treats.

We had labels for all the regular stops. There was the please take one house. It was the gem of the night. A couple of parents who didn't want to answer the insistent rings of the doorbell every 5 minutes for 3 hours straight so they left a box of candies on the doorstep. We'd run up and grab a handful each, emptying the bin in one fell swoop. In contrast to that there was the raisin house. A young mom who wanted us to be healthy. The Cream of Wheat house was similar to the previous one, so they possibly conspired. And there was also the suspect candy house where you'd get one unwrapped jelly bean thrown into your bag which you would promptly discard.

My favorites though, were the book and pencil lady who I coincidentally ended up working with 15 years later at Scholastic (at which point I also became the book and pencil lady because they actually give those items to employees to hand out on Halloween). Among all the peanut butter cups and mini chocolate bars, books were something I wasn't allergic to. I would trade some candy I couldn't have for my friends' paperbacks and they'd gladly accept. There was also a really nice lady on my street who would always hand out Skittles because she knew I could have them. And when she gave everyone else one packet, she'd give me two.

When we got home my brother and I would sort the candy into piles on the floor while my parents put on The Great Pumpkin or whatever Halloween special was playing on TV. My brother is allergic to nuts, peanuts, and shellfish. I'm allergic to dairy, nuts, peanuts, and legumes. We'd first filter out all the nut-infested candy and pass it to our parents. Then the ones with no ingredients label would either go to my dad or the trash bin. My brother would try to steal my Maynards candies and I'd fend him off. I'd sort out the candies he could have but I couldn't, and he'd get those in exchange for some of my favorites from his pile. I'd get all the raisins. He'd lament about the Cream of Wheat. This would go on for quite some time. And sorting out the deathly candy was just regular routine for us. To be honest I never really thought about it. It wasn't until I was a bit older and had a few anaphylactic reactions under my belt that I began to understand the seriousness of what we were doing. My parents had equipped us with the skills to take care of ourselves, and we were so accustomed to it that it had become second nature. But what if trick-or-treating didn't have to involve sorting out the unsafe treats from the safe ones? What if everyone could just enjoy it as equally as possible without worry?

Cue The Teal Pumpkin Project started by FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education). Now in its second year, this project was started to raise awareness about food allergies and in my opinion reminds people how food allergies affect kids every day and in every facet of their lives. You can take the pledge

and put a teal pumpkin on your doorstep to signify that you have treats suitable for kids with food allergies. It can be a non-food snack (pencil toppers, erasers, mini-books, the list goes on) or you can ask the kids what they are allergic to and find a suitable snack once they're at the door. Enjoy Life foods, a favorite brand among allergic people, has conveniently released a new product line of individually wrapped cookies that are perfect for handing out on Halloween. However their neutral packaging makes them a great grab-n-go snack year round. In four flavors these cookies are delicious, crispy, and quite honestly - addictive! Even kids who don't have food allergies will love them. My favorites are the double chocolate and the sugar cookie. I'm already dreaming up a pie crust recipe using the graham wafer... They're free from the top 8 allergens and are vegan and non-GMO.

Enjoy Life products are available at most major grocery stores in Ontario, but you can find a full listing on their website. Orders can also be placed online

So now that you know how easy it is to find allergen-free Halloween treats and understand the importance of the #TealTakeover, sign up to pledge today and support the cause!