Teal it Forward

Guest post by TAG member Indrani Sreya Maitra, @allergyism_101 on Twitter

Halloween was always a mixed bag for me as a young kid. I would have fun dressing up in my costume and going trick-or-treating with my friends. But then there was always the inevitable, sad moment when I would hand those friends my candy loot. I am allergic to dairy, eggs and tree nuts, so most popular brands of candy are not safe for me. That is why the Teal Pumpkin Project (TPP) is so special to me. A teal pumpkin on a doorstep on Halloween night is a welcome sight – when I was younger it meant that there were non-food treats available thatI could safely keep, and now that I’m a teenager, it is a sign of someone caring and including kids with food allergies and other dietary conditions.

While I have spotted more teal pumpkins over the past few years, I still wish there were more. I’ve realized that the Teal Pumpkin Project is becoming a familiar movement among the food allergy community, but the project is still unfamiliar to people without food allergies. Perhaps if information about the Teal Pumpkin Project reaches families with and without food allergies, more teal pumpkins would appear on doorsteps in in fall.

Last year, I came up with “Teal It Forward,” a project to increase food allergy awareness in the community. I invited a group of neighborhood kids to a Trick or Teal party. Most of them did not have any known food allergies. We decorated teal pumpkins, created "teal bags" filled with simple non-food treats, and talked about the Teal Pumpkin Project. I encouraged them (and asked their parents) to tell at least one friend or neighbor about the reasons for their teal pumpkins. It made me so happy to see the dots on the Teal Pumpkin Project map and recognize the little teal pumpkins as I walked around with my friends on Halloween night!

We recently had FARE’s Houston Food Allergy Heroes Walk, and I helped my mom manage the Walk’s teal pumpkin art station. Kids decorated more than 150 teal pumpkin cutouts with colorful glitter, glue and feathers. We also shared 75 teal pumpkins, along with the Teal It Forward message – “Pass on the extra pumpkin to a family or a neighbor, preferably one without any food allergies, and tell them all about the Teal Pumpkin Project.”

My Teal Pumpkin Project-inspired idea is just one way that teenagers like me can Teal It Forward and spread food allergy awareness amongst the whole community. For example, we can make a presentation in our local schools with “Be a PAL: Protect A Life,” a FARE education program that can help children learn how to be a good friend to kids with food allergies. We can write in our high school paper about the increasing prevalence of food allergies in the U.S., or start a school club to support peers with dietary restrictions. We can even have a Teal Pumpkin Project party favor drive to collect the half-filled bags of small party favors that many families have in storage, buy some mini pumpkins, and hold a Trick or Teal Party. How fun will it be if all our little teal dots can add up to wide teal bands on the Teal Pumpkin Project map during Halloween?! I would love to hear from you in the comments section below about how YOU would Teal It Forward!