LEWISTON — Amber Parsons is a busy woman, taking care of two sons with autism and sensory issues and close relatives with food allergies.

None of this makes Halloween an easy time for her and her family, but the holiday has been more fun since she discovered the Teal Pumpkin Project, she said.

The project is an initiative to make Halloween more accessible and safe for children with food allergies, especially to peanuts, as well as those with other special needs. This is done by offering non-candy options, such as toys and stickers, to trick-or-treaters.

The Teal Pumpkin Project is a movement started by Food Allergy Research and Education as ”a worldwide movement to create a safer, happier Halloween for all children.

“Putting a teal pumpkin on your doorstep means you have non-food treats available, such as glow sticks or small toys,” according to FARE’s website. “This simple act promotes inclusion for trick-or-treaters with food allergies or other conditions.”

Parsons said she has a lot of family members with food allergies.

“When I saw my niece not being able to have a lot of the candies, it hit me hard,” she said.

She saw a post about the Teal Pumpkin Project a few years ago and decided to take action. She bought small toys, pencils and little books to pass out to children   with special needs. 

“I have been doing this for five years, starting when my oldest son was 2,” she said.

Many people think it’s strange that she doesn’t hand out candy, she said. But she knows it’s harder for children now, with the rise of food allergies and children with sensory issues.

“They can’t eat a lot of the candy that is out,” she said.

She sees very few people offering other items besides candy, she said.

“Some people find it not ‘normal’ and think I should just do candy,” Parsons said. “Other people say they ‘can get over it.'”

Parsons isn’t the only parent with food allergy concerns when it comes to Halloween. But the other voices from the community were less concerned with doing something outside of the box.

Marie Lavallee Pike said, “I have a great-niece who is allergic to peanuts and a grandson who is gluten-free. I get them chips and/or hull-less popcorn.”

Janet Fitzpatrick has a similar stance. “We give out small bags of snacks like potato chips (or) Cheetos,” she said.

Wendy Champagne-Aguilar’s son is allergic to peanuts. She said they just sort his candy and trade pieces he is unable to eat for pieces he can have.

Lindsay Niles is open to the idea of the Teal Pumpkin Project, but is unsure whether she gets enough trick-or-treaters to make a difference.

“I’m going to try to have stickers or another non-food item to hand out along with the usual candy,” she said. “I’d like to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project, but I don’t think my road sees many trick-or-treaters. Kind of on the fence about it.”

Roy Cossey is participating in the Trunk or Treat party at the United Methodist Church in Auburn. He is hopeful for a candy-less Halloween, although not for the same reasons.

“My wife, Desiree, and I will be giving out glow sticks and glow-in-the-dark stickers and even more,” Cossey said. “We’re not a fan of giving candy out because kids get too much candy and we want to be different and give the kids something else to enjoy. We are starting a less-candy revolution and hope it makes it around the world.”

The Trunk or Treat party will be held Sunday, Oct. 30, from 4 to 7 p.m.

To learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project, which promotes candy-less Halloween treats, and how to participate, visit the FARE website

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