The Teal Pumpkin Project
* This was originally written two years ago, but given that Halloween is next week, it seems worth re-posting!
Has anyone been wondering about the teal-colored pumpkins that keep popping up everywhere? We've got the answer!
When I began teaching in the mid-1980s, child food allergies were a relatively rare issue in schools. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the school I was in began to alter policy to account for the fact that we had students with serious food allergies, and I can remember the first school Halloween party—probably around the year 2000—where we were not allowed to bring candy that contained peanuts!
Here at Community School we have standing policies that prohibit nuts on campus, and Chef Rosie goes to great lengths to ensure that the food she serves us is accessible to as many children as possible. Her task is made more difficult both because of the wide variety of allergies (nuts, dairy, gluten, and more!) and our philosophy of dining Family Style; all students are served the same food, and we have for decades encouraged them to “taste” what is put before them. In this way we allow children to discover new food loves, and minimize the number of students who refuse to eat something because it looks different to them. But Chef Rosie always has a backup plan so that children who can’t eat the communal food can go to the kitchen, where there are alternatives ready for them.
Halloween is an especially tricky time for some families. Although we don’t have candy parties here at school, Halloween night most of our students dress up in costume and go door-to-door. But imagine the difficulty this presents to a family with children whose health might be imperiled by the candy they collect! These parents are faced with either telling their children they may not Trick or Treat, or knowingly risking their children’s health.
That is why the Teal Pumpkin Project is such a wonderful approach. Run by the Food Allergy Research and Education group (FARE), the Teal Pumpkin Project calls on all of us to offer a non-food option for Trick or Treaters, and then let visitors know about it by displaying a teal colored pumpkin in their yard to signal that there is a safe option available. For more information, head over to https://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project#.V_J0B5MrKRs.
Food allergies are such a difficult challenge for families, and we here at Community School do all we can to make it easier for children to come to school safely. I encourage you all to do what you can to make Halloween safe and fun for all!
[Teal pumpkin photo credit: Foodallergy.org]