Halloween, for some people, is an exciting moment to celebrate as the autumn nights draw in.
Many people, often families, can be seen wandering the streets, all dressed up and ready to ‘trick or treat’ carrying lanterns, parents hovering in the background.
For those who are older, they may be dressed up too and heading off to a party somewhere to ‘freak out’ on All Hallows Eve.
This is an event where people are often knocking on the doors of neighbours they don’t know – or complete strangers. It can be fun, exciting, thrilling, perhaps with a hint of danger.
Spare a thought though for people like our own CEO Julianne Ponan who has life-threatening food allergies. For them, this annual activity carries huge risks. As this evening often involves treats which are often foods, sweets and snacks – it can be a risky venture for those who suffer from food allergy, particularly nuts.
Julianne loves Halloween – often describing it as her favourite seasonal event of the year – yet as an allergy sufferer she has to speak up when it comes to snacks or treats. She cannot risk any kind of contact with her allergens. Also as many people will bake their own cakes or biscuits for the evening, it’s not always possible to read the label and check the ingredients. The result could be fatal and almost had been on one occasion when Julianne unwittingly consumed a home-baked treat with nuts as a child. This led to emergency treatment.
While it might be just another worry for those who get scores of children knocking on their doors – please consider doing something to cater for this group of children.
Why? Otherwise they can feel very excluded.
A common theme for allergy sufferers is the isolation they often feel, especially around the hugely social pastime of food. These children can be separated from friends during meal times at school, at parties and when Halloween comes around. This sense of separation can carry on into adulthood, emphasising a feeling of being an outsider, someone who is a total ‘pain’ when it comes to food. Many of those with severe allergies suffer extreme loneliness.
Parents will often not risk taking those children out at all – and if they do – these children are then prevented from having that same spontaneous moment when it comes to choosing a treat. They may be too embarrassed to say “I can’t eat that or that or that’ for fear of seeming rude. Then later, if they accept something unsuitable, they in turn, have to give it away and they get nothing.
A few years ago the ‘teal pumpkin project’ was launched to raise awareness around inclusion of food allergy sufferers at Halloween. The project offers practical advice to households to cater for children – or adults – with allergies at Halloween.
They suggest offering some non-food treats and painting a pumpkin into a ‘teal’ colour to show neighbours that you are ‘free from friendly’. Any households adopting the scheme can add their address to a national online map to help affected families find the right places to visit. To be part of the project visit https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project/get-started And watch us making our own teal pumpkins here!
We support this project each year and the Creative Nature team can be seen painting pumpkins to raise awareness. If you want to be part of it and want to get in some suitable treats or snacks which are suitable – you can find out more about our own snacks here – http://staging.creativenaturesuperfoods.co.uk/product-category/type/flapjack-bar/
Meanwhile Julianne has three top tips for families where a child has food allergies.
*Participate – gently educate people and over time it will get easier. Not taking part is just increasing loneliness and isolation.
*Don’t eat anything while trick or treating – enjoy the experience and then check the treats at home together to be safe. Have some alternatives on hand which are safe so no one feels left out.
*Don’t trick or treat alone – just in case be part of a group so if the worst should happen there is someone to act quickly.