Have you heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project? The Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee came up with the idea of painting a pumpkin teal this Halloween to signal your house has Non-Food items available for trick-or-treaters with food allergies. The purpose of this project is to raise awareness that one in thirteen children in the US has at least one food allergy and to provide inclusion for children with food allergies and other dietary restrictions during an activity, trick-or-treating, that is primarily food-focused. FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) helped take this campaign national with news agencies like CNN running news stories supporting the initiative. Organizations representing diseases such as diabetes and celiac disease have also rallied around the teal pumpkin project, supporting non-food item treats. Parents simply in favor of having less junk food entering their home have rallied around the initiative too.
Last week on my personal Facebook page I posted a link to a blog post titled, In Defense of the Teal Pumpkin Project: You’re Looking at it Wrong, Tiffany Self the author defends the voluntary project concluding, “If you join in – especially as a member of the “normal” world – we will love you for it. If you don’t – it’s okay. Really.” My comment to the article (on Facebook), “Well written in defense of the Teal Pumpkin Project. This member of the “normal” world is joining in because I believe Halloween is about having fun, not about how much candy we can pass out to children.” A childhood friend of mine replied, “I don’t even read the comments on any article about food allergies because some are just so nasty. Thank you for ‘getting it’.” Momentarily I accepted the pat on the back. Upon second thought, I realized that I don’t get it. I don’t understand what it is like to have a child with a life threatening food allergy. I do not understand the fear of my child having an allergic reaction, neither the helplessness of waiting for the medication to take effect nor the agony of waiting for my child to simply breath.
I also do not get the complete lack of empathy and plain hostility of some people commenting on food allergy articles. Self cites several in her post, and I did my own research reading more. People really do quote Darwin’s survival of the fittest to parents of children with food allergies. Do people do this to parents of children with pediatric cancer too? It seems very mean. It seems something you would only say to hurt another parent, and I am simply left wondering why someone would comment in such a way.
In this day and age the Internet proves to be a fantastic tool for spreading awareness and allowing projects such as #tealpumpkinproject to gain momentum. It allows people to speak out against and for projects, and it brought me news of the teal pumpkin. We will have a teal pumpkin on our doorstep. I’ll be handing out glow bracelets, glow rings, Halloween pencils, and funky Halloween pens, this Halloween. I may never “get it” but I will happily participate. My sons may not have allergies, but since 1 in 13 kids does we know a few and we’re happy to include them and all food allergy sufferers in trick-or-treating.
Happy Halloween, be healthy and safe.