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What are the Teal, Blue Pumpkin Projects?

Learn more about these initiatives aim to make trick-or-treating more inclusive for children who have autism and food allergies.
A teal pumpkin full of small toys and a pencil.
Posted at 8:58 AM, Oct 31, 2023

As millions of children participate in trick-or-treat and related Halloween activities tonight, there are several efforts underway to make the holiday more inclusive. 

One you might notice is the inclusion of teal pumpkins. This initiative invites households to put out a teal pumpkin to indicate they have non-candy items to give away. These items are intended to go to children who have food allergies. 

Food allergies affect a relatively large number of children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8% of children have some sort of food allergy. The most common food allergies include milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts and tree nuts. 

Many candies include these items, including milk, eggs and peanuts. 

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To include children with food allergies, households are encouraged to have other fun items on hand, including glow sticks, bracelets or necklaces; pencils, pens, crayons or markers; Halloween erasers or pencil toppers; whistles, kazoos or noisemakers; and bouncy balls, among other items. 

These items should be kept in a separate bowl to avoid contamination, according to Food Allergy Research and Education.

Households that have non-food items are encouraged to sign up on the Teal Pumpkin Project Map.

Meanwhile, there is a Blue Pumpkin Project that was started on social media a number of years ago. This project is intended to show adults that children who have autism may not have the same verbal skills as other children. 

However, this project has created division among autism advocates. Mother Keri Chavarria's post got attention for decrying the movement. 

"Some parents might see the blue bucket as a way to help our kids. I know the many (many) people who alerted me to the idea did so with good intentions," Chavarria wrote. "Our society is becoming more aware of autism, more open to inclusion, and my kids will benefit from that. But they also shouldn’t have to tell a stranger they have autism in order to get some chocolate. Again, enough with the blue pumpkins."

Autism Speaks, one of the leading organizations for autism advocacy, does not mention the Blue Pumpkin Project by name, but does offer recommendations for parents on how to communicate their child's needs. 

The organization has a badge on its website that families can print. The badge says, "Hello! I have autism. I may not say 'Trick or Treat.'"

"If your child is non-speaking or has limited communication, help them decide if they’d like to use the badge… to let others know that they communicate differently," Autism Speaks says.