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A food blog from NHPR news, digital, & programming staff, exploring food & food culture around the state & the New England region. On-air features air Thursdays on All Things Considered and Saturdays during Weekend Edition.

Foodstuffs: Why Trick-Or-Treaters with Food Allergies Should Keep an Eye Out for Teal Pumpkins

Via GlutenFreeFamilyTravel.com

There are two pumpkins sitting on the stoop of Amie Lundquist's Nashua home, and she's planned exactly what she's giving out this Halloween. But everything about the holiday scares her.

“I know that I get extreme anxiety around that time of year -- knowing that your child is going door to door, and that this is something that people are handing to them and it is deadly to them.”

Lundquist's son Aiden is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.

“If he eats peanuts, his face swells up.”

But Lundquist still wants Aiden to experience the childhood rite of passage of trick or treating – with a few modifications.

“He went trick or treating last year. We just left all the candy at the door, and I went through and sorted through what he could have and couldn’t have.” 

Other parents come up with their own strategies. In Manchester, Nikki Richards' youngest son Thomas has severe food allergies. She says she had to turn down a lot of candy last year.

“It got to a point where my older son had such a big bag full of candy and I couldn't really explain it to my younger son that his wasn't as big because it could hurt him. I had to go out and buy a safe bag of candy to specifically give to the two-year old without him knowing.”

Food allergies are becoming more common. A study by the Centers for Disease Control showed that 3.7% of children had food allergies in 1997. Now, more than 5 percent of American children are allergic to milk or nuts, although the reason why is unclear.

This year, Lundquist and Richards and thousands of other parents are promoting giving out toys or allergen-free candy instead of peanut and dairy filled chocolate. As a signal that their house is allergy-safe for Halloween, they're putting out not an orange, but a teal-colored pumpkin by their door.

Credit Alejandro Tuñón Alonso via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/7dLBPY
This pumpkin may be spooky, but it's not saying "Hey, there's peanut-free candy here!"

Teal has been the color for food allergy representation for over 20 years. The non-profit Food Allergy Research and Education Group launched the teal pumpkin project last year. They say more than 100,000 people have signed a pledge to participate this year, and about 4,000 people have registered their addresses on a map on the group's foodallergy.org website, although you'll only find a handful of homes in New Hampshire.

“The way that you can become involved with it is uh the teal pumpkin, it's Halloween, so you paint the pumpkin teal or you have a teal color pumpkin poster outside your house.”

It's not just parents of non-allergic children participating. Ben Hoke in Derry has a teal pumpkin in front of his house.

“We don't have children or anything. We just want to give back.”

Ben calls the Teal Pumpkin Project a “grassroots campaign” that spreads by word of mouth.

This Halloween, Hoke will still be giving out Butterfingers and Baby Ruth. But he's got another bowl with toy soldiers and glow sticks, so kids – and parents – can make a choice.

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