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!

Family Activities for Winter Break

By Tabitha Surface, Extension Agent

Ah, winter break – that time of year when teachers and students rejoice, and parents ask the question, “What am I going to do with these children for the next two weeks?” Here are some fun and budget-friendly activities you can do with your kids during the winter break, especially with the mild temperatures we’ve been having here in West Virginia so far this season.

Indoor Snowball Fight

It’s been a snowless December for the most part, but get into the winter spirit by having an indoor snowball fight. You can buy indoor snowballs or shower poofs, found in the health and beauty section. Or, with this overly warm weather, you can still take the “fight” outside.

Snow Sensory Activity

If you’re itching to see snow on the ground, consider making your own. Using the following ingredients, mix one wet with one or more dry ingredients. Add glitter for a snow that looks more festive.


  • Conditioner
  • Shaving Cream
  • Lotion


  • Corn Starch
  • Baking Soda
  • Shredded Paper

Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt

Enjoy the unseasonably warm weather while it is here by going on a nature walk scavenger hunt. There are great walking trails all over the region, just check your state and local parks.

Here a few fun things to look for:

  • a squirrel
  • an evergreen tree
  • something green that isn’t an evergreen tree
  • a cardinal
  • other birds

Here’s a fun idea to try: If you take the walk with socks over your shoes, the socks will collect seeds. In the spring, plant your socks and see what grows!


If you’re open to venturing a little farther than your own front yard, consider volunteering someplace as a family, like at a local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, community holiday dinner, or even the animal shelter.

Have children go through toys and clothes and donate them locally. Or, join this college student and put jackets, scarves and mittens around a local city with notes that read, “I’m not lost! If you need me, please take me.” Organize an event such as a blanket and jacket handout.

Or take the time to explore your local community by going to a museum, visiting an ice skating rink, or taking a class or workshop as a family. Find local events at West Virginia Department of Commerce’s Calendar of Events.

Between at-home activities and volunteer opportunities, the are a plenty of ways to keep you and your kids busy all through the winter break.