Teal Pumpkin Project: Campaign raises awareness of children with food allergies before Halloween

Published 10:12 am Friday, October 23, 2015

Amy Roux and her 7-year-old son, Austin, display a teal pumpkin and sign at the Chelsea Public Library advertising the Teal Pumpkin Project, a campaign aimed at raising awareness of food allergies. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

Amy Roux and her 7-year-old son, Austin, display a teal pumpkin and sign at the Chelsea Public Library advertising the Teal Pumpkin Project, a campaign aimed at raising awareness of food allergies. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)


CHELSEA – Halloween, for many children, signifies a fun night of dressing in costume and collecting as much candy as will fit in their plastic pumpkins while trick-or-treating.

But for children like Chelsea’s Austin Roux, who has food allergies, Halloween can present more tricks than treats.

Roux, 7, is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and dairy, and he has Celiac disease, an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

“We got his official food allergy diagnosis when he was 2 1/2,” Amy Roux, Austin’s mother, said. “We just started realizing it was going to change things.”

Eating a piece of candy with one or more ingredients Austin is allergic to could cause serious health problems for him.

“We have to avoid it because we’re trying to avoid a life-threatening reaction,” Amy said of the candy. “He’s known probably since he was 2 to check with me to see if he can eat something.”

Amy and her husband Michael, along with other parents with children who have food allergies, are participating in the Food Allergy Research and Education’s Teal Pumpkin Project, a national campaign launched last year to raise awareness of food allergies and to promote “inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season,” according to Foodallergy.org.

The goal of the campaign is to provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters. Those interested in participating in the TPP may download a free printable sign from the website to display with a teal-painted pumpkin in front of their homes.

Amy said Austin enjoys seeing homes with teal pumpkins already displayed in preparation for Halloween night.

“I like them,” he said of the pumpkins. He plans to be the character Zuma from the television show “Paw Patrol.”

“He’s so excited when he sees that because that’s a chance for him to just be a kid,” Amy said. “For us, it’s an everyday thing. It can be hard.”

Amy is founder and co-leader of the No Nuts Moms Group of Birmingham, a local support group for families coping with food allergies.

After Austin’s diagnosis, Amy found the national No Nuts Moms group online and began following the group’s page to learn how others were handling situations similar to hers.

About a year later, she reached out to the group’s leader for help in forming a local group.

“This is something, and unfortunately, it’s becoming more common,” Roux said of food allergies. “(The kids) are used to knowing they can’t have everything, so that’s why it’s so nice when they can be included.”

With funding from FARE, the No Nuts Moms Group in Birmingham, along with the FARE Walk committee, has been purchasing paint and pumpkins to use in promoting the TPP this month.

Group members have been distributing teal pumpkins and signage to locations in Shelby County, along 280 and in the Birmingham area.

Teal pumpkins are currently displayed at the Chelsea Public Library, North Shelby Library, Chelsea Family Dentistry, Cahaba Valley Pediatric Dentistry (Narrows), Helena Public Library and the offices of Birmingham Allergy and Asthma Specialists, Amy said.

“We’re trying to get them as widespread as we can,” she said.

About seven or eight families in the group met Oct. 10 at Heardmont Park for a pumpkin painting party, complete with non-food goodies for the children.

“It’s nice to get together with other parents who are going through the same thing,” Amy said.

Under the direction of No Nuts Moms Group of Birmingham co-leader Ann Marie Liskey, the group recently launched a community page on Facebook open to the public.

Amy said the page can serve as a tool for family members of children with food allergies, and non-family members, such as educators, who spend time with children and need to know their limitations since some children have their first allergic reactions at school.

For Austin, campaigns like the TPP offer opportunities for him to participate in events like Halloween as his peers without food allergies would by making more people aware of his and others’ situations.

“It’s a chance for him to be a kid,” Amy said. “That’s what it’s about – reaching people that just don’t know.”

For more information, visit the No Nuts Moms Group of Birmingham Facebook page or Foodallergy.org.