Teal Pumpkin Project

By Tabitha Surface, CARD Extension Agent

Halloween is fast approaching and more than a few of us are scrambling to prepare the perfect costume. But food allergy parents have something more than last minute costumes to worry about. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), food allergies affect more than 15 million people in the United States, including 1 out of 13 children. That means if you are handing out candy this year, either at your door or at trunk-or-treat events, you’ll be dishing up treats to at least a few kids that can’t enjoy them.


Depending on the severity of the food allergy, parents might let their children trick-or-treat and swap out what has been collected with treats they know are safe for their kids. But, let’s be honest, that’s not nearly as fun as sifting through your take to see what you picked up along your route. Worse, holiday goodie bags or school events celebrated with food may exclude children with allergies. While exclusion is pretty common for a food-allergic child, it can have a negative impact on their self-worth and social-interactions, as well as potentially intensifying food-allergy related anxiety.


However, there are easy, inclusive solutions. For school parties, treat bags can be food-free or the parent of a food-allergy child can be consulted; they may be happy to help prepare classroom snacks so all the children have the same experience without putting their child in harm’s way. Always defer to the food-allergic child’s parent on matters of food. Remember, they spend a great deal of time trying to keep their kid safe, and while you may have the best of intentions, it can be very scary to trust a relative stranger with your kids life.


It gets even easier when it comes to trick-or-treating. Be a part of FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project by setting out a teal pumpkin. The teal pumpkin lets families with food-allergic children know that non-food treats will be offered. Even better, this gives kids who don’t have allergies but might have restrictive diets (such as diabetics) a safe option as well. Below is a list of ideas and a couple of great resources to get prepared even so close to Halloween.


1. Tattoos (This isn’t a bad idea but keep in mind that some inks are soy based, and soy is one of the top 10 allergens.)

2. Bubbles

3. Fake snakes and spiders

4. Slap Bracelets

5. Fortune Fish

6. Glow sticks/bracelets


And where can you get these fun toys? Retailers from the Dollar Tree to Wal-Mart carry inexpensive toys and gift-bag kits, but you can also order in bulk from Oriental Trading or Amazon when time permits.


In the Charleston-Huntington area, The Food Allergy Pharmacist partners with Kroger to host a Teal Pumpkin Project inspired trunk-or-treat. However, she takes it one step further and asks that sponsoring trunks offer no food treats at all. West Virginia State University Extension Service is a sponsor of the event. Join us on Saturday, October 29, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Kroger on 7th Ave/1st Street Huntington and from 4 to 6 p.m. at the South Charleston Kroger. There will be lots of non-food goodies, carnival-style games and a dance party. Happy Halloween!

Upcycling Your Pumpkins

by Jenny Totten, Extension Agent

Now that the Halloween season is over, you might have an abundance of leftover pumpkins hanging out on your porch. Don’t throw them away; reuse them! There are several potential uses for those leftover pumpkins, whether you’ve turned them into spooky jack-o-lanterns or just simply used them as part of your fall landscaping.

Carved Pumpkins

A carved pumpkin may not work for a pumpkin pie, but our animal friends can still appreciate it as a seasonal – and nutritious – treat. Many area farms will take your carved pumpkins to feed their pigs. Additionally, you can chop your pumpkin into smaller pieces and feed the wildlife outside of your own windows. Squirrels, chipmunks and birds all love pumpkin.

If you have access to a compost area, you can also toss the whole pumpkin in or cut it into smaller pieces, and it will compost down with the rest of your scraps. If you have an abundance of pumpkins to compost, mix in some dry leaves or dried grass clippings to help the process along.

Full Pumpkins

If your pumpkins haven’t been carved and only used for decoration, the uses after Halloween multiply. The easiest thing to do is to simply leave the pumpkins out for the rest of the fall season! If you chose a healthy pumpkin from the get-go, it should last well into Thanksgiving week.

For a fun family activity, take the top off of the pumpkins and pull out all of the guts and seeds for a sensory play experience! Children love separating the seeds from the guts. Wash the seeds and place them on a baking sheet along with chosen spices and bake in an oven for 5 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Tasty combinations include cinnamon and sugar, garlic and sea salt, and rosemary with sea salt and pepper.

If the flesh is still intact, you can also use this in recipes calling for canned pumpkin. Simply carve the flesh off of the skin, place in a blender and puree for a preservative-free addition to your fall soups and sweets. The puree itself can also be frozen for later use.

Don’t be sad for your jack-o-lantern! With so many uses after the fall holidays have passed, you can easily make sure your pumpkins enjoy the rest of the season right along with you.