The Teal Pumpkin Project began in eastern Tennessee but has grown into a nationwide program to help children with food allergies enjoy Halloween.
As Halloween 2017 approaches, you may notice some blue-green color mixed in with the traditional orange pumpkins.
Don’t be alarmed.
It’s part of the Teal Pumpkin Project, a movement that has become a bit of a viral sensation.
The basic idea is to help children with severe food allergies enjoy Halloween festivities.
But what does that mean, exactly?
And how did it all begin?
Some corners of the internet proclaim the idea all started with Vikki Meldrum, a mom in Westlake, Ohio.
However, Meldrum told Healthline she was really just an early adopter of the program.
The project actually began as a local awareness activity put on by a group called the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET).
They opted to use the color of food allergy awareness, teal, to advocate for ways to better include children with food allergies in the Halloween fun.
It wasn’t until the national group FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) stepped in to help FACET bring the initiative to a wider audience in 2014 that it became as well-known as it is today.
The idea was simple.
Place a teal pumpkin on your doorstep to let food allergy families know you have non-food treats to hand out to their little trick-or-treaters.
“It all started with a simple post on FARE’s Facebook page in October 2014,” Nancy Gregory, the senior director of communications for FARE, told Healthline. “Within three weeks of the launch, FARE’s posts on social media had reached more than 5 million people. The food allergy community wholeheartedly embraced the campaign, with its message of inclusion and safety, and we saw overwhelming support from outside the food allergy community as well.”
Meldrum was one of those moms who embraced the idea as soon as she heard it. At the time, her daughter with severe food allergies was 2 years old.
“I wanted her to be able to trick or treat, but I was pretty scared,” Meldrum recalled. “I was looking for a strategy and some help. TPP provided a framework that I could take to my neighbors and ask for non-food treats. It worked so well.”
She wrote a blog post for foodallergy.org where she described what they did to get their neighbors on board. But as she explained to Healthline, it really came down to something pretty simple.
“I got them to participate because I asked,” she said.
It seems so small, but considering her neighborhood has had a 100 percent non-food participation rate over the past few years, clearly it worked.
“People got to meet our daughter and put a face with the issue,” she explained. “I think that helped.”
Supporters say that’s the whole idea behind the Teal Pumpkin Project.
Neighbors helping neighbors. Communities coming together.
And all children being able to celebrate.
But FARE isn’t done growing the program.
“Our goal is to see a teal pumpkin on every block in America,” Gregory said. “We certainly hope that the Teal Pumpkin Project will be a tradition in households for years to come, and we will continue to grow the campaign by spreading the word, forming partnerships with retailers, and continuing to create great resources for community members so that it’s easy for them to participate.”
But what counts as a non-food treat?
Healthline readers weighed in and it turns out they’re giving out all kinds of items with great success.
This includes Silly String, small Play-Doh containers, crayons, yo-yos, temporary tattoos, stickers, bouncy balls, bracelets, and rings.
Margaret Done told Healthline, “We have both candy and non-food treats, and we let the kids decide what they want. More often than not, they all choose the non-food treats.”
In fact, a lot of readers expressed the same thing. It turns out even kids without food allergies can get behind the idea of non-food trick-or-treating.
Which should be music to their dentist’s ears.
If you’re curious about participation in your neighborhood, FARE provides an interactive participation map that will help you to see where the teal pumpkins are.
They announced that in the past few weeks, 10,000 additional homes have been added.