MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - Halloween is the time of year when people love dressing up in costumes, carving pumpkins, and devouring a handful of candy. But imagine being that person that doesn't get the opportunity to indulge in the sweet, salty, or crunchy sensation of a candy bar because of a food allergy.
"It's thought that 3-5% of children are allergic to foods and the number has been growing," mentioned Dr. Lawrence Hennessey, Allergist at the Okemos Allergy Center.
Hennessey has been an advocate of the Food Allergy Research & Education Center, also known as FARE, for quite some time.
FARE is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies, and to provide them hope through the promise of new treatments.
"Last year they started the Teal Pumpkin Project which was designed to raise awareness about food allergy and provide a safe trick or treat experience for children with food allergies," stated Hennessey.
"The most common food allergens are going to be peanut, tree nut...but other foods can also cause food allergy…milk, wheat, egg, soy, shellfish and fish are major allergens as well," Allergist Dr. Monoj Mohan of the Okemos Allergy Center said.
This national campaign offers an alternative for kids who suffer from food allergies, as well as other children for whom candy is not an option and continues to keep Halloween a fun, positive experience for all.
"I think its an excellent idea…there are children out there who want to participate in holidays and occasions and they might feel a little left out given their food allergies," Dr. Mohan stated.
The Teal Pumpkin Project began in 2014 with participation from all 50 states as well as 7 countries and now has skyrocketed with over 100,000 households taking the pledge.
"You take the pledge to provide non-food treats for children who have food allergies so those children can safely participate in Halloween activities," mentioned Dr. Hennessey.
Some of those non-food treats could include bracelets, stickers, miniature toys and things of that nature.
So how does one know which households are participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project? Easy.
People are encouraged to register online free of charge to take the pledge.
By painting a pumpkin teal blue and placing it on your front porch...it lets families know which households are providing non-food treats.
"I think its raising awareness…many people don't have the appreciation for food allergy because if it doesn't affect you or someone you know personally a lot of people doubt that its a serious issue," Dr. Hennessey mentioned.
"We hope the Teal Pumpkin Project will become a community tradition for years to come...we have been thrilled to see so many people embracing this initiative as a way to ensure kids with food allergies can enjoy a safe, fun Halloween experience just like their friends," stated Vice President of Communications Veronica LaFemina of FARE.
If interested in finding out more information regarding the Teal Pumpkin Project, visit their website at www.tealpumpkin.org