As the old saying goes, “it takes a village,” and it doesn’t apply any less when it comes to Trick-or-Treating. But food allergy families do have a responsibility to speak up, reach out, and educate.
If your neighbors are anything like mine, they would likely be thrilled to know what kinds of treats would be safe to hand out to the neighbor kids with food allergies on Halloween night. But if they don’t know, they can’t help; and if they are not familiar with food allergies, they also don’t know to ask. As food allergy parents it’s our job to lead the way, whether we like it or not.
Here are two simple things we can do to help our neighbors, help us this year:
- Let them know in advance: The change in season is a perfect excuse to wish your neighbors a “Happy Fall” with a homemade card or note. Let them know that your children are looking forward to trick-or-treating at their house this year, and include a list of edible treats (be brand-specific if necessary) that would be safe for your trick-or-treater(s), in case they are planning to hand out candy. You could also print off a pre-made flier such as this one from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) promoting the Teal Pumpkin Project, a worldwide movement which promotes inclusion by recommending non-food treats in support of children with food allergies or other conditions.
- Help prompt the question: We will have a sign in front of our door like this one while we are out trick-or-treating. You can make your own, or keep it simple by printing off any one of the fliers FARE makes available on their website. This will give food allergy families some assurance but perhaps more importantly, it will beg the question in turn to your neighbors if their treats are also allergy-friendly.
It Takes A Village
Even if your family is not impacted by dietary restrictions we can all play a role to help spread awareness and lighten the load for caretakers.
Job #1: If you know of any families in your neighborhood who are impacted by food allergies or other health conditions, reach out to them first and ask what kinds of treats would be safe. I promise you, this tiny act would mean SO much to a food allergy parent!
Job #2 if you can’t do Job #1: Ask anyways! 1 in 13 children in the U.S. have food allergies today. Chances are at least one of them lives in your neighborhood. If anything, it’s a great conversation starter to get to know your neighbors better!
For the Newly Diagnosed Food Allergy Parent
My number one tip, is familiarize yourself with the most popular candies before the big day. Make a “Safe” and an “Off Limits” list of the most popular items (3 Musketeers, Snickers, etc.) that you can expect to receive. Save yourself some of the legwork by consulting online lists that others have already aggregated, such as this list of Nut-Free candy. As always, be sure to double check in case ingredients, or the facilities where products were made have changed. You will be thankful that you did the upfront work so that in the heat of the moment, you’re not trying to read tiny labels when all you really want is to get your kiddos to bed after an exciting night.
I also highly recommend giving this article a read from Allergy Mom Gina Clowes for a few genius ideas, such as supplying pre-filled sealed treat bags for neighbors to hand out, and fun ways to negotiate “trade ups” with older children.
**As a food allergy parent, my story specifically mentions food allergies, but please also consider ALL of our food minority groups (those impacted by dietary restrictions, whether they be philosophical, religious or health-related). From one parent and neighbor, to another, please and thank you. ❤